5th June 2001

Plane catches fire on take-off from Jersey

G-CEXF, a Fokker F27 plane on its fourth flight of the day, caught fire just 400ft above the runway as it took off from Jersey Airport. A certain amount of “vibration” had already been noted earlier in the day as it had sat idling on a runway but, as this seemed to disappear when the engines were ramped up to flight speed, it was put into service as usual. It flew from Bournemouth to Jersey and back, then over to Jersey again carrying cargo.

No passengers aboard

So far, nothing out of the ordinary had happened, so there was no reason to suspect that the fourth flight would be any different. This was a positioning flight with only crew and no passengers aboard, which would put the plane in the right place for its next flight. It taxied, took off and, when it was 670ft above sea level – 400ft above ground level – the first officer asked the commander to move to climb power.

According to the official report from the Air Accident Investigation Branch, “at this point the crew heard a loud ‘bang’ and the left engine Fire Warning activated. The First Officer continued to control the aircraft, keeping it straight against the potential yaw and maintaining a climb profile. The commander initiated the engine fire drill for the left engine, which involved … pulling the Fuel Shut-Off Handle.”

The plane would have to come back down, but to do so safely it would first need to climb a little higher. The crew made a MAYDAY call to the airport as they circled and climbed to 1500ft, and the commander took over so he could land the aircraft on its one remaining engine.

Cause discovered

A subsequent investigation revealed that a disc in the engine had cracked, which could have caused the vibration. When taken to the power level required for climbing, it had broken entirely, severing one of the fuel lines and shooting parts through the engine cowling, which caused the fire. Some pieces from the engine were found beyond the end of the runway and on the roof of a nearby house.

Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured in the incident, which investigators described as a “catastrophic failure of the No 1 engine immediately after takeoff resulting in a sudden loss of power and an immediate substantial fire…” The aircraft was repaired and returned to service.


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