Heathrow crash inquiry looks at jet's fuel supply

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The Independent Online

Both engines of the British Airways jet that crash-landed at Heathrow airport were still running when it came down, investigators disclosed yesterday.

Disaster was narrowly averted when the Boeing 777, carrying 136 passengers and 16 crew, lost power on its approach to the west London airport on 17 January.

American investigators have recorded six previous engine failures involving the same type of aircraft, it emerged yesterday.

The most recent was in September 2006, when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777's right engine shut down near Brisbane, Australia.

The US National Transportation Safety Board's website lists another five incidents, including one in August 2005 where a 777 lost thrust after taking off from Perth, Australia. A British aviation industry source stressed seven engine failures was "not a large figure" given the aircraft's long flight history and questioned how similar the previous incidents were to this month's BA crash-landing.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) issued an update yesterday, indicating its inquiry into the Heathrow incident may be focusing on the aircraft's fuel supply system. The possibility of fuel contamination is just one of the theories about what caused the jet to lose power.

The AAIB said it was carrying out a "detailed analysis and examination of the complete fuel flow path from the aircraft tanks to the engine fuel nozzles".

On Sunday, the 150-tonne aircraft was painstakingly moved from Heathrow's southern runway to BA's nearby base, where it is being examined for clues.

In its latest update, the AAIB repeated that the Boeing's twin Rolls-Royce engines had failed to respond to demands for more thrust as it came in to land.