by Jherlyn Meneses/Asianjournal.com
BRITISH Airways (BA) flight 38 from Beijing, China landed short of the runway at London Heathrow Airport. The Boeing 777 grounded on tarmac after touching down several hundred meters short of the airport’s South runway with its emergency chutes deployed.
The incident which appeared to have had a fortunate escape, occurred Thursday at 1242 GMT over heavily-populated west London suburbs before its crash landing. Part of the undercarriage, including two wheels were torn off, and there was some damage to the wings. The most visible damage was to the left wing, which was covered in mangled metal where it meets the fuselage. Tire tracks hundreds of meters long could be seen in the grass behind the plane, which was surrounded by fire engines and other emergency vehicles.
When the jetliner crash landed, a jet carrying British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Virgin Chairman Richard Branson was about a half mile away waiting to take off. His flight was delayed but his jet was not directly involved.
In a statement, British Airways said all 136 passengers and 16 crew members had been evacuated from the plane with six minor injuries taken to hospital. The cabin crew had done an “excellent job” evacuating passengers via the emergency chutes. British Airways’ chief executive Willie Walsh issued a statement saying he was “very proud of the way our crew safely evacuated all 136 passengers.”
The runway was initially closed, but reopened later to take-offs only. The north runway remained open throughout the incident. All BA short-haul flights from Heathrow have been cancelled and others delayed. A total of 221 flights out of a normal 1,300 were cancelled. Most of those were to short haul destinations – just eight were long haul. A further 24 flights bound for Heathrow were diverted to Stansted, Gatwick and Luton Airports.
The Department for Transport’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch will lead the inquiry into the crash landing. In a statement, it said initial findings would be released within 48 hours, followed by a more detailed, but still preliminary, report within 30 days.
A team from the US National Transportation Safety Board is also heading to London, accompanied by representatives from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Adminsitration.