Korean Air passengers recall near-disaster at Tokyo airport

Firefighters at the engine of the Korean Air plane at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on May 27.
Firefighters at the engine of the Korean Air plane at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on May 27.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - Passengers of a Korean Air plane have recalled the terrifying moment one of the aircraft's twin engines caught fire as it was gaining speed for take-off at Tokyo's Haneda airport.

All 302 passengers and 17 crew members were evacuated safely from the Korean Air Boeing 777 on Friday (May 27), escaping down the plane's inflatable emergency evacuation slides onto the runway.

"As the plane was picking up speed to take off, there was a bang and I saw a plume of black smoke rising from the wing," Keum Min Woo, 34, told journalists after the passengers arrived in Seoul on an alternative flight late Friday.

Crew members calmly led passengers into safety, Keum said.

Another passenger Hwang Kyung Tae, 59, said the plane screeched to a halt after the explosion.

"A minute passed and we were told to evacuate. If the plane had taken off several minutes earlier, we all would have died," said Hwang.

Kim Byung Jin, 47, had a bandage over his forehead from a cut he suffered when he bumped into another passenger as they were coming down an evacuation slide.

TV footage aired Friday showed the plane, which was bound for South Korea's Gimpo International, surrounded by red fire trucks and with the area around its left wing doused in foam.

The South Korean transport ministry sent a team of investigators to Japan on Friday to assist the local authorities in determining the cause of the accident.

The plane had been in service for 15 years and the troubled engine was installed a year and a half ago, a Korean Air official said.