Six injured as BA 777 airliner crash lands at world's busiest airport

Six people were injured today when a British Airways Boeing 777, flying in from Beijing, crash landed and missed the runway at Heathrow Airport in London, the world's busiest airport.

A major tragedy was only just avoided - the plane crashed onto the grass just metres away from a busy road packed with motor vehicles and the plane passed just metres over the roofs of nearby houses.

Once the plane hit the grass, it skidded several yards until came to a halt on the runway.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's flight to Beijing was delayed.

British Airways passenger plane crashes off runway at Heathrow airport

17th January 2008
Daily Mail

• British Airways flight BA38 from Beijing makes emergency crash landing at Heathrow

• All 136 passengers evacuated safely

• Flights diverted to Stansted, Luton and Gatwick as Heathrow south runway closed

• Nothing to suggest incident was terror-related, says Scotland Yard

A British Airways pilot was hailed a hero today after crash- landing a packed airliner at Heathrow in a terrifying drama.

The pilot had issued a mayday on the final approach to the airport after his aircraft suddenly lost power.

He battled to control the plane as it flew over west London's densely populated suburbs. Airline sources said it was "extraordinary" he had avoided a crash that would have caused huge loss of life.

One said: "When you lose power in an aircraft it is very difficult to keep the wing-tips level. It is a miracle he managed to bring it in safely."

One passenger described how the Boeing 777, arriving from Beijing, "dropped like a stone", hitting the grass short of the main runway yards from a busy perimeter road.

As it skidded across the ground, wheels snapped off, the undercarriage buckled and it shed engine parts.

Passengers were evacuated using emergency slides

The plane's engine appears to have been stripped by the crash (click to enlarge)

All 152 passengers and crew were evacuated on emergency chutes. Ambulances and fire crews raced to the scene and six people were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

British Airways has issued a number for people concerned about relatives on the flight: 0800 389 4193

The plane - BA flight 038 carrying 16 crew and 136 passengers - landed at 12.42pm. One passenger told how it came in at a "funny angle".

He said: "We just bellyflopped on to the grass right at the beginning of the airport and skidded along the grass.

Passengers were evacuated with emergency slides and six were taken to the nearby Hillingdon Hospital with minor injuries.

BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said: I am delighted to say that our flight and cabin crew have acted incredibly professionally and they have safely evacuated all 136 passengers."

Confirming that there is a formal investigation underway, he said that it would be "inappropriate" to speculate on the likely cause of the crash.

All flights into and out of the airport suffered delays, including a flight due to take Prime Minister Gordon Brown to China.

Many flights have been delayed and the southern runway remains closed.

Detectives in the Prime Minister's motorcade, who witnessed the incident, at first worried that the plane was being flown towards Gordon Brown's entourage, sparking fears of a terrorist attack.

The stricken plane at Heathrow Airport in London, the busiest airport in the world

The plane's wing appears to be partially ripped from the body (click to enlarge)

Daily Mail journalist Robert Hardman was on a plane at the airport as the drama unfolded.

He said: "He seemed to be coasting in comfortably over the Terminal Four approach road.

Suddenly, he seemed to make a small jerk, dipping his port wing a little. Then his nose suddenly lifted - but not much.

"Maybe he had hit a light gust of wind? During my brief training, I had been told that the pilot should lift the nose when he is about 20 feet off the ground. This plane was a good deal higher than that."

"His rear wheels appeared to be down. Looking back, I'm not sure whether his front wheel was there or not.

"But, all of a sudden, there was a long-haul airliner skidding along the runway in a great cloud of black smoke, flame and flying bits of blackness."

Emergency slides were used for the evacuation

The flight stopped just 1,000 metres from the Prime Minister's plane - but Scotland Yard have said there is no indication so far that the crash was related to terrorism.

Eyewitness John Rowland said: "The plane's wheels collapsed. On its approach it took the runway too low, just missing the roof of my cab.

"It crashed into the runway, debris was flying everywhere, there was an enormous bang and it skidded sideways."

Daily Mail Political Editor Benedict Brogan, who is on the Prime Minister's plane, said: "I can see the plane has come off the runway due to a lack of undercarriage. It is sitting at an odd angle."

"From where I sit, it's come down at a bad angle and one of the wings appears to have been damaged. It's in the grass and the slides are down.

"The BA airbus from Shanghai we are told is surrounded by fire engines but there is no sign of smoke."

The pilot on the Prime Minister's plane described the incident to passengers as "a significant incident".

Aviation expert Kieran Daly from Flight International magazine said he was shocked by the incident, given the aircraft, airline and airport involved.

"The 777 is pretty much state-of-the-art at the moment, even though it has been around for quite a long time.

"It's very difficult to understand what might have gone wrong.

"We're talking about one of the most advanced aircraft in the world, operated by one of the most safety-conscious airlines in the world, flying into one of the safest airports in the world.

"It's quite a surprise."

One passenger, Jerome Ensink, told Sky News that the gravity of the situation did not really sink in until they were on the ground looking up at the plane.

Before that, he said, "I think you're at the point of wondering should I bring my luggage or not ...".

One passenger told the BBC that he felt as if he had "won the lottery" in surviving the crash.

"We just belly-flopped on to the grass right at the beginning of the airport and skidded along the grass," he said.

Scotland Yard said there is no indication the crash was terrorist-related

"We hit the runway and went round 45 degrees."

He said the evacuation was well conducted by the crew.

Eyewitness Neil Jones, who has a general aviation pilot's licence, said he had seen the plane making a "very, very unusual approach" to Heathrow.

Speaking to BBC24, Mr Jones went on: "The engine noise sounded louder than normal and it was that that first attracted my attention.

"The aircraft was banking to the left and it was coming in very low over the surrounding houses. The plane was significantly lower than it would normally be."

Mr Jones added: "I could see the undercarriage was down and the wing flaps were down. I don't know how many engines were working.

"You could see the pilot was desperate, trying to get the plane down. The aircraft hit the grass and there was a lot of dirt. The pilot was struggling to keep the plane straight. I think he did a great job."

All the airport's fire engines were present at the scene.

The northern runway later re-opened and the Prime Minister's plane was given permission to take off.

One of the plane's wheels was torn off

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Police were called at 12.43pm to reports of an incident involving an aircraft on the southern runway at Heathrow Airport.

"We understand that all passengers and crew are currently being evacuated.

"There are no reports of any persons seriously injured at this time.

"There is nothing to suggest at this stage that the incident is in any way terrorist-related."

There was no smoke visible from the plane, which was surrounded by emergency vehicles.

Accompanying the Prime Minister on his flight to China were around 30 political journalists.

The plane missed the runway at Terminal Four (file picture)

Also on the plane bound for Beijing was Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes.

At 1.20pm, passengers were told to take their seats for the delayed departure.

A spokesman for BAA, owners of Heathrow, said: "Passengers have been evacuated and Heathrow's southern runway has been closed."

In the moments before it crashed short of Runway 27 Left, the BA jet would have flown over heavily populated West London suburbs, passing close to Hatton Cross Tube station and flying low over the busy A30 and the airport's perimeter road.

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, which includes Heathrow Airport, said: "This incident demonstrates the risk of a further runway at Heathrow to the safety of local communities and London.

"Nobody planning an airport today would even consider the expansion of an airport so close to the largest centre of population in this country. This incident highlights the safety reasons for halting Heathrow expansion."

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said: "We are very proud of the way our crew safely evacuated all 136 passengers on board with only three minor injuries." He added that there were three flight crew and 13 cabin crew on board.
lone wolf
Without even waiting for the investigation results, I'm guessing a malfunction in an approach control guidance system....

naaaaaa...pilot was pissed outa his skull.

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