IN THE latest incident to hit an Indonesia AirAsia flight departing from Surabaya, the engine of a plane failed just before it took off from Juanda International Airport in the Indonesian city, local news media reported.
The plane had been taxiing for 2m to 3m before takeoff when the engine "suddenly died", horrifying passengers who heard a loud sound, Indonesia's Metro TV reported. Flight QZ7633 had 162 people on board.
The Bandung-bound plane made it back to the gate and the passengers were asked to disembark while the plane underwent repairs, Metro TV reported.
Passenger Yusuf Fitriadi told Metro TV that a man clad in pilot uniform told passengers waiting at the terminal that the starter monitor had malfunctioned.
"The plane was ready and moved, but suddenly a loud sound was heard, the sound of the engine disappeared and the plane moved backwards. We were shocked and panicked.
"The plane was then pulled back to where it parked and we were asked by the stewardess to leave the plane," the passenger was quoted by Metro TV as saying.
Mr Yusuf said that the airline later told passengers that the flight would resume after the issue had been attended to, but about 90 per cent of them refused to reboard the plane, fearing that the fault would reoccur during the flight. Indonesia AirAsia then refunded the plane fare of those passengers who had declined to continue with the flight, Metro TV reported.
Indonesia AirAsia later downplayed the incident, saying the plane's engine did not stall. It said a power unit used to start the engine shut down. As a result, the pilot turned back to the gate, Raden Achmad Sadikin, director of safety and security at Indonesia AirAsia, told reporters.
"It's not that the engine failed. The plane wanted to take off but the APU (auxiliary power unit), which is the equipment that helped to start the engine, suddenly shut down," Sadikin said.
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes lashed out at the media reports, calling the headlines "sensational" and "silly", the Malaysian Insider reported.
"Silly headlines in Malaysia. AirAsia Indonesia aircraft did not have a stalled engine. An Apu (sic) (auxiliary power unit) which is ground power had to be restarted," he tweeted.