British Airways plane catches fire in Las Vegas

9 September

A British Airways plane bound for London has caught fire at Las
Vegas airport, forcing the evacuation of 172 people on board on
emergency slides.

Airport officials said at least 14 people were taken to hospital with
minor injuries.

US Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said
the left engine of the Boeing 777-200 caught fire before take-off.

The plane was seen engulfed in flames and smoke. The fire was
later put out.

In a statement, British Airways said the aircraft "experienced a
technical issue as it was preparing for take-off".

In a distress call the plane's captain asked for the airport's
emergency services: "Speedbird Mayday Mayday. Speedbird 2276
request fire services."

"Speedbird 2276 heavy, we are evacuating on the runway. We
have a fire, repeat, we are evacuating," he adds.

The pilot later told passengers that the accident was the result of
a "catastrophic failure of the engine", reports the Guardian's
Jacob Steinberg, who was on board the plane.

"We looked out the window and for the first time saw smoke near
the wing.

We could smell it. It was like burning rubber - bitter and
deeply unpleasant - and it was time to panic," Steinberg writes.

Analysis: Richard Westcott, BBC Transport correspondent
Most pilots will go through their whole career without having to
deal with an emergency like this, but it's always on their minds.

During every inch of a take-off, they are constantly thinking, "if
something happens, what would we do?".

They'll have discussed
it before each flight too, talking through each possible emergency
scenario and how they would handle it.

And they'll have practised it every six months or so in the
simulator, aborting take-offs.

Above 180mph (290km/h), they would be forced to take off in
this kind of plane, no matter what the problem was, because
there is not enough runway to stop. Below that speed they have
to make split second decisions, how bad is it? Do we throw on
the brakes? Do we evacuate?
This flight was travelling at around 89mph when they decided to

One experienced airline pilot told me that this BA crew seems to
have reacted in a "text-book" fashion, getting everyone off quickly
and safely.

Eyewitnesses speak of giant flames
Flight 2276 was bound for London's Gatwick airport.
There were 159 passengers and 13 crew members on board.

A spokesman for Rolls Royce told Reuters news agency the
engine was not made by the company, British Airways uses
engines made by either Rolls Royce or General Electric, the
agency adds.

The airport tweeted: "Received first call at 4:13 PM (23:13 GMT);
flames were spotted at 4:14, and by 4:14 response was

It added: "@LASairport had the fire out and all passengers off BA
flight by 4:18 PM - excellent work by our ARFF team."

Airport officials said passengers were taken to the city's Sunrise
hospital, most of them with injuries sustained while sliding down
inflatable chutes during the evacuation.

Some of those on board said there was smoke in the cabin as
one exit was opened and immediately declared unsafe.

Eyewitness Reggie Bugmuncher said she was waiting at a gate
for her flight when she heard people saying: "Oh, my God."

She said looked out the window and could see "bursts of flames
coming out of the middle of the plane", the Associated Press
news agency reports.

An investigation into the blaze is now under way after what was
clearly a lucky escape, the BBC's James Cook in Los Angeles

The incident shut one of the airport's four runways for several

McCarran is a major airport in the US, handling more than 40
million passengers last year.

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