Singapore, June 27: Over 240 people on board a Singapore Airlines flight to Milan had a narrow escape today as their plane caught fire while making a dramatic emergency landing here after the jet was forced to turn back due to a mid-air engine problem.
All passengers on board Flight SQ368 are safe, the airline and airport officials said as the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, with flames leaping from the plane's wing, touched down at Changi Airport.
The flight departed from Changi Airport for Milan at 2.05 AM today but about two hours into the flight, the pilot announced that there was a problem in the engine and the flight had to turn back to Singapore. The SIA said in a statement that Flight SQ368 was en route from Singapore to Milan when an "engine oil warning message" forced it to turn back.
"The aircraft's right engine caught fire after the aircraft touched down at Changi Airport at around 6:50 AM," the statement said. "The fire was put out by airport emergency services and there were no injuries to the 222 passengers and 19 crew on board.
Passengers disembarked through stairs and were transported to the terminal building by bus," it said. Changi Airport also issued a statement saying that the fire was extinguished "within minutes" by the Airport Emergency Service team, which was already on standby.
According to Mamta Jain, whose husband was on board the flight, the plane's engine "exploded and the right wing was burning" while it was landing. "The pilot announced during the flight there was a problem with one of the engines that they would turn back. When they landed he said engine was on fire, he could see flames. They were all inside the plane and they could see the right wing burning," Jain was quoted as saying by media.
One passenger posted a harrowing account and a video of the engine fire on Facebook. The video clip, shot from a window seat, showed huge flames and smoke engulfing the right engine. "I just escaped death!" Facebook user Lee Bee Yee said in a post that accompanied the video clip. Lee, who was onboard the flight with her husband, said there was a strong smell of fuel on the plane.
"The pilot said he was going to turn back because the engine is leaking oil on the right side. The captain said that they cannot turn on that side of the engine or else the plane will be vibrating. And they can't fly like this to Milan...That's why they turned back," she said.
It was an agonising five-minute wait for the firefighters to arrive after we landed and the fire erupted, Lee said. After they arrived, firefighters sprayed foam and water on the plane and the fire was put out in about five to 10 minutes, she said.