The British Airways fire that caused an emergency landing has been deemed an accident. Investigators have determined that the fire originated from engine doors, which were “left unhatched.”
The Airbus A319 British Airways plane, destined for Oslo, was forced to land at London’s Heathrow airport last week. A fire broke out in the right engine, which had to be shut down. The left engine continued to function normally as the pilot made the emergency landing.
As reported by the Huffington Post, the passengers and crew were unharmed during the landing and evacuation of the plane. It was originally thought that the damage was caused by a flock of birds.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch investigated the incident. They have concluded that the British Airways fire was actually caused by engine doors, which were left unlatched during routine maintenance.
The engine, or cowl, doors need to be opened to check a plane’s oil levels. As the plane underwent routine maintenance the previous evening, it is expected that the doors were left open at that time.
As reported by BBC, the unlatched doors were not noticed during a pre-flight inspection. The doors are reportedly “difficult to see unless crouched down so that the bottom of the engine is clearly visible.”
The full details have not been disclosed as the investigation is ongoing. However, experts speculate that the unlatched doors flew open when the plane departed. As the right engine caught fire, the open door on the right side likely punctured the fuel line.
The AAIB has requested that all Airbus crew take specific precautions to avoid a similar incident. Their report stressed “the importance of verifying that the fan cowl doors are latched prior to flight.” They recommend visual and manual verification that all doors are secured.
Last year Airbus recorded 32 reports of cowl door failure. The British Airways fire was the only major incident recorded.
[Image via Wikimedia]