Five people were injured yesterday when passengers and crew were forced to evacuate an aircraft after smoke was detected on board as it taxied towards take-off at Manchester airport.
In a drama that echoes the airport's 1985 disaster – which also involved an attempted evacuation before take-off – 89 passengers and five crew slid down emergency chutes and jumped from wings of the KLM aircraft bound for Amsterdam.
Managers of KLM, the national carrier of the Netherlands, said smoke had been found in a lavatory at the rear of the Fokker 100 twin-engined aircraft while taxiing at 6.20am, leading to the captain's immediate evacuation order. The incident is not being treated as suspicious and an electrical fault is thought to be the cause.
Martin Hughes, 46, who jumped out with his wife, Frances, 52, and their 11-year-old son, Philip, said the jet was at the end of the taxiway and about to turn on to the runway when a "funny smell" was discernible. He noticed the air hostesses "running from the back to the front and looking a bit agitated". Within two minutes the lights went out and the pilot was issuing the order: "This is the captain, evacuate."
Mr Hughes, from Northumberland, said: "They pushed the doors open. People were moving very slowly. One woman hurt herself as she went down the chute."
People whose exit was over the wing had to jump off the wing, a drop of about seven feet, and another woman was hurt in the process, he added.
The plane, which has a passenger capacity of 100, was being inspected later yesterday by KLM engineers. An investigation has been opened.
The attempted evacuation in 1985 at Manchester airport of a British Airtours charter flight, heading for the Greek island of Corfu, occurred at a similar time of day, 6.08am, but was disastrous. The Boeing 737's left engine caught fire as the jet acceleratedfor take-off. The evacuation was hindered by a malfunctioning door. Of the 137 people on board, two members of crew and 53 passengers died, largely through smoke inhalation.
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