Passengers aboard a Qantas jumbo involved in a mid-air emergency have recalled flames “like a giant Roman candlestick” shooting out from one of the four engines.
The Boeing 747-400 was 15 minutes into its flight from San Francisco to Sydney when a malfunction in one of the aircraft’s starboard engines caused it to erupt, ripping a gaping hole in its outer shell.
Some of the 212 passengers, relieved to be safe after the mid-air emergency, have spoken of their shock immediately after the 747-400′s engine exploded above the Pacific Ocean late on Monday.
Some panicked and cried, “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go down”, but most handled the emergency calmly. Others prayed while some even “went back to reading their books”, passengers recalled. Those who were not able to cope were ushered to the front of the aircraft.
Most of the passengers aboard QF74 finally arrived back in Sydney yesterday morning after taking other flights out of the US.
The image above was taken by passenger Emily Brisciani moments after she and other passengers heard a loud noise and saw one engine alight.
“I was sitting above the wing of the engine which exploded, there was a loud pop and then the plane started to sway and shake off to one side,” Ms Brisciani, of Sydney, told the Herald Sun yesterday.
“I looked out the window and saw flames coming out of the engine.”
Ms Brisciani said flight attendants rushed to the front of the plane to inform the captain as the engine surged, sending sparks and flares all the way to the tail of the plane.
A Qantas spokesman said San Francisco air traffic control was contacted immediately and arrangements were made for the plane to return to the city. Fuel was dumped before the plane safely landed.
Ms Brisciani said some passengers appeared upset and frightened, but most remained calm until the aircraft landed and passengers then erupted in a chorus of cheers.
Passengers were provided with accommodation in San Francisco for the night, before being transferred to Los Angeles yesterday ahead of their departure that afternoon.
Two separate replacement flights were scheduled by the airline. Aviation experts are investigating the cause of the explosion, while a replacement engine is being flown to San Francisco to be fitted to the grounded 747.
The Federal Aviation Administration in the US said Qantas would prepare a report on the incident. “Whatever Qantas does is going to have to meet with our approval too,” an FAA spokesman said.
“The bottom line is we want to make sure and know that that aircraft is airworthy when they are saying they want to put it back on line.”
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