SINGAPORE - A Singapore Airlines (SIA) plane that was forced to return to Singapore due to an engine fault, caught fire shortly after it landed at Changi Airport on Monday (June 27) morning.
There were no injuries but travellers booked on other early morning flights faced some delays, as Runway 2 where the plane landed was closed for about five hours following the incident.
Flight SQ368 with 222 passengers and 19 crew on board, departed Changi Airport Terminal 3 for Milan, Italy, at around 2.05am on Monday.
About three hours into the flight, the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft was forced to turn back after the pilot received an engine oil warning message.
One of the plane's passengers, Ms Lee Bee Yee, 43, said she detected a faint whiff of what smelled like gasoline about two or three hours into the flight.
"We were informed by the pilot that there was a leak, and that the plane would have to return to Changi Airport as it did not have enough fuel for the journey," said Ms Lee, who runs an e-commerce company.
According to Ms Lee, the plane touched down safely at Changi Airport at around 6.45am to cheers and clapping from the passengers. Shortly after the landing, however, the plane's right wing caught fire.
"The blaze was quite fierce and we waited for around two to three minutes before the fire engines arrived," she said.
"Surprisingly, all the passengers were quite calm. The SQ crew was very professional in calming everyone down."
SIA said the right engine of the plane caught fire after the plane landed at Changi airport at 6.50am, with airport emergency services responding quickly to the fire.
The fire was extinguished in five minutes, said a CAAS spokesman.
Passengers then disembarked through stairs and were transported to the terminal building by bus.
The Straits Times understands that SIA made arrangements for a new aircraft and set of crew. The new flight to Milan departed at about 11am on Monday, while some passengers opted to catch a later flight.
In a notice handed out to all passengers, SIA apologised for the incident and said arrangements had been made for light refreshments while passengers wait for their flight.
The aircraft was seen being towed from the runway at around 10.30am. Its right wing was blackened and appeared to be mangled badly.
Landings and take-offs continued on the other runway, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a statement issued on Monday evening. While some flights were impacted, all flights were able to take off within one hour of their scheduled departure times, the statement said.
CAAS will be investigating to determine the causes of the incident. The Ministry of Transport’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau will also be conducting an independent investigation.
An SIA spokesman said the airline will be cooperating fully with the authorities in their investigations.
In a Facebook post on Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed his relief that all onboard were safely disembarked.
He added that SIA and CAAS are investigating the cause and will "get to the bottom of the matter".
Other ministers also commented on the incident on their respective Facebook pages, with Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing praising the pilot and crew of SQ386 for their "calm and collected response".
He wrote: "Well done also to the ground crew and control staff for responding in a clockwork manner to deal with the situation.
"All these would not have been possible without years of hard work and training behind the scene."
Tanjong Pagar MP Melvin Yong also lauded the plane's crew for executing a safe emergency landing.