Firefighters respond to fire alert and spray wrong plane with foam, causing 90-minute delay at China airport

The Fuzhou Airlines planed covered in foam after firefighters mistook it for another plane that was emitting sparks from its engine.
The Fuzhou Airlines planed covered in foam after firefighters mistook it for another plane that was emitting sparks from its engine. PHOTO: WEIBO

An airport in China's Fujian province had to be closed for 90 minutes after an embarrassing mix-up by firefighters responding to a fire alert from a plane.

Chinese media reported that the incident, which took place at Fuzhou Changle International Airport on Thursday (Dec 10), involved a Boeing 737-800 plane from Air China that was waiting to take off.

A pilot from a nearby Fuzhou Airlines aircraft had spotted sparks emitting from the Air China plane's right engine and notified the airport's control tower.

Responding swiftly, control tower officials sent eight fire engines to the scene.

But the fire engines drove right past the affected plane - which had switched off its engines - and doused the Fuzhou Airlines plane with foam instead, after spotting heat emissions from its engine.

The firefighters were alerted to the mix-up when the control tower realised that they had sprayed the wrong plane.

As a result of the bungle, the airport was shut down for 90 minutes and a number of flights were delayed.

The sprayed-on Fuzhou Airlines plane had to be subjected to thorough checks, while its passengers were made to disembark and had to be put up at a hotel for the night.

Air China said in a statement that the sparks coming from its plane engine were "normal" and did not pose any risk to the aircraft.

The statement added that aircraft fuel would trigger sparks when the engine was running at low pressure.

When asked by Air China why it had sent firefighters without first confirming with the airline about the sparks, an airport official said: "It's the only way to make sure that everything is all right in an emergency situation."

Netizens had mixed opinions of the incident, with some blaming the firefighters for failing to recognise the different airline logos.

Others praised the control tower officials for taking swift and decisive action.