Las Vegas jet fire engine is safe, maker says

A photograph posted on Instagram shows the plane on fire at McCarran International Airport.
A photograph posted on Instagram shows the plane on fire at McCarran International Airport.AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The manufacturer of the engine that burst into flames on a British Airways jet in Las Vegas said Wednesday that other aircraft powered by the GE90 engines were still safe to fly.

The Boeing 777 was preparing to take off with 172 people on board Tuesday when the fire broke out in its left engine.

The crew immediately aborted the takeoff and terrified passengers scrambled off the burning plane using emergency slides.

McCarran International Airport said seven people were injured while local television reports put the number at 14.

General Electric, maker of the GE90, said it was sending technical representatives to assist an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, but insisted its engine was safe.

"Based on the engine fleet's service history, we are not aware of any operational issues that would hazard the continued safe flight of aircraft powered by these engines," it said.

Boeing and British Airways, which sent letters of apology to passengers on flight BA2276, were also taking part in the probe.


GE issued a statement saying the engine "has compiled an outstanding safety and reliability record since entering service in 1995."

"The GE90 is among the world's most reliable engines, powering more than 900 Boeing 777 aircraft and accumulating more than 50 million flight hours."

Richard Aboulaffia, an aeronautics expert, agreed that the Boeing 777 is one of the world's most reliable aircraft, telling AFP the Las Vegas incident should not affect either Boeing or GE.


Boeing shares were up 0.82 per cent to US$134.92 at the opening of the stock market in New York Wednesday, as were GE's, which rose 0.42 per cent to US$25.

The BA jet was preparing to leave for London when it experienced what its pilot later described as a "catastrophic engine failure."


Named in the British press as Chris Henkey, the pilot has four decades of experience. The Guardian quoted his wife Marnie as saying: "He is safe and happy. I've had some messages from him. He did a bloody good job."

Aviation expert Julian Bray said: "It was a textbook emergency evacuation under difficult conditions because that smoke was thick, black and acrid."

A Guardian reporter who was on the plane tweeted that he was asleep when it came to a "crashing halt" on the runway, and the order was given to evacuate.

"They opened the back door and slide went down and smoke started coming in plane, followed by mad dash to front. A lot of panic," said the reporter Jacob Steinberg.


A video shot by a passenger aboard a nearby plane and aired on CNN showed passengers using evacuation slides and running away on the tarmac as emergency vehicles rushed to douse the flames.

There were 159 passengers and 13 crew on the flight, according to the FAA. The blaze was quickly put out by some 50 firefighters.

The British Airline Pilots' Association praised the handling of the incident.

"Having such a serious incident resulting in only a few minor injuries is a tribute to the professionalism of the pilots, the cabin crew and the emergency responders at Las Vegas," said Captain Brendan O'Neal, BALPA's chairman.