Emergency landing at Heathrow sparks further controversy over London airport capacity

Witnesses reported smoke and flames coming from one of the engines

As investigators try to find out what went wrong with both engines of a British Airways jet, causing it to make an emergency landing at Heathrow shortly after take-off, the incident sparked more controversy about airport capacity in south-east England.

Investigators were last night attempting to find out what went wrong with the engines of the jet, causing it to make the hasty landing at Heathrow shortly after take-off.

The Airbus A319, with 75 passengers and five crew aboard, took off at 8.16am bound for Oslo. Within minutes the pilots had encountered engine problems and asked for permission to return to Heathrow. Pictures taken by passengers show the serious damage to both engines. Normal practice is to dump fuel in order to reduce the landing weight, but evidently the crew wanted to land immediately.

The aircraft followed the normal approach for the northern runway over London, passing about a mile south of the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Residents of south-west London saw a plume of black smoke coming from the right engine.

Clive Cook, who lives beneath the Heathrow flight path in Battersea, told Sky News: “The right engine was on fire. It wasn’t smoking; it was actually on fire.”

The southern runway was temporarily closed as fire crews took up position ready for an emergency landing on the northern runway. The aircraft landed at 8.43am, and came to a halt on the runway facing into the wind – normal practice to reduce fire risks. The evacuation was carried out quickly and safely. Mark Freeman, the duty manager at Heathrow, praised the emergency services and BA “for their calm professionalism in assisting passengers and making the aircraft safe”.

The northern runway remained closed for almost two hours, causing widespread delays. More than 20 incoming flights were diverted to other UK airports – many to Gatwick, Luton or Stansted, but others to Cardiff, Bournemouth and Manston in Kent.

Around 200 flights to and from Heathrow were cancelled in the wake of the incident. All British Airways services to domestic and European destinations up to 4pm were axed, while Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic also cancelled flights.

A party of 100 schoolchildren from Newcastle planning to fly to Rome for a holiday last night returned by bus to Tyneside. Charlotte Wathey, a parent, said, “Shame on BA for cancelling completely rather than flying late to Rome. You would think that with a party of that size, BA would have made every effort to get them away late, rather than not at all.” BA told passengers: “These cancellations will help us to stabilise our schedule, allowing us to get as many customers away as possible in these difficult circumstances”.

Passengers on flights that did operate faced delays of up to four hours. Eurocontrol in Brussels tweeted that users of Heathrow should “expect heavy delays all today”. Disruption continued into the evening, with later services to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Geneva cancelled.

The incident happened at the start of one of the busiest weekends of the year, the start of half-term for many families. British Airways had planned to carry close to half a million passengers between Friday and Monday, but many of the 128,000 expecting to travel yesterday saw their planes grounded. Passengers whose flights are cancelled go to the back of the queue to be re-booked on the next available flight.  The emergency added impetus to the debate over airport capacity in South-east England, partly from those calling for extra capacity to reduce disruption.

Laurie Price, an advisor to the All-Party Aviation Group, said: “All BA short-haul services cancelled till 4pm due to one incident is absurd. Heathrow just has no resilience.”

One comment on The Independent’s website read: “London is one of the very few cities in the world that has its main flight paths over the city. A very serious accident is not a question of if, but when.”

In a separate incident, a Pakistan International flight from Lahore to Manchester was given an RAF fighter escort after two passengers were reported to have made threats to the purser. The Boeing 777, with 297 people on board, was diverted to Stansted – the airport designated for handling suspected terrorist incidents. The aircraft landed safely at the Essex airport, where two men were arrested.

Suggested Topics
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?