Chinese plane fails to take off, catches fire, causing minor injuries due to evacuation

Rescue workers at the site where a Tibet Airlines Airbus A319 caught fire after its take-off failed, at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport in Chongqing, China, May 12, 2022. cnsphoto via REUTERS

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BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Tibet Airlines said all passengers and crew were evacuated from an Airbus A319 that caught fire after a failed take-off in the southwestern city of Chongqing on Thursday.

The company said in a statement that there were no deaths and only minor injuries among the 113 passengers and crew of the nine planes on board.

China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) said 36 people had bruises and sprains during the evacuation of Flight TV9833 and were sent to local hospitals for examination.

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The authority said in a statement that the pilots boycotted the take-off in line with the procedures after experiencing an engine malfunction, which led to a fire in the engine and a fire after the plane veered off the runway.

The aviation regulator added that emergency plans were activated and investigators rushed to the scene.

The accident came less than two months after the crash of a China Eastern Airlines flight (600115.SS), prompting the CAAC to conduct sector-wide inspections to find potential safety holes. Read more

An unverified video on social media showed a Tibet Airlines plane, affiliated with Air China (601111.SS), with thick smoke and flames billowing from the left side of the plane as passengers and crew fled.

The plane caught fire at 8:09 am local time (0009 GMT), said Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport.

A passenger identified as Mr. A in Chinese media said there was a sudden shake and oxygen masks were lowered before the plane made an unusual sound and veered off the runway.

Crew members noticed that fuel oil was leaking and began evacuating passengers down the slides, Mr. A. said. He indicated that the fire soon broke out, forcing some passengers, including himself, to jump out of the plane, adding that he was hit in the back and legs.

Unverified photos on social media show both engines separated from the airframe as well as a large crack in the aft fuselage and damage to the right wing.

The aircraft in question is a nine-year-old A319, one of the youngest versions of the A320 family. It is powered by CFM56 engines from CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric (GE.N) and Safran (SAF.PA), according to Airfleets.net.

Airbus said it was aware of media reports of the accident and was doing its best to assess the situation.

Tibet Airlines is a regional airline based in Lhasa. It has a fleet of 39 aircraft, including 28 A319s, according to Airfleets.net.

On March 21, a Boeing 737-800 of China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS) with 132 people on board crashed in the mountains in southern China, killing all on board. So far there has been little clue as to the cause of the accident. Read more

The tragedy has shocked a country that has dramatically improved its safety record to become one of the best in the world. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, China was one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, according to passenger traffic, over the past decade.

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(Reporting by Stella Keough in Beijing and Jimmy Freed in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Fest, Jacqueline Wong and Simon Cameron Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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