FlyBe emergency: Passengers jump onto runway after fire hits Belfast-bound plane in mid-air
Passengers have told of their terror after an engine of a FlyBe aircraft on its way from Glasgow to Belfast City Airport burst into flames in mid-air.
Shocked passengers saw flames erupt from the port engine of the twin-engine turboprop - which had already experienced technical difficulties with its undercarriage before its take-off from Glasgow last night.
The stricken aircraft was diverted to Belfast International Airport, where a full emergency plan swung into action and passengers were evacuated onto the freezing runway in pouring rain.
Some were forced to jump six feet from the back doors as there were no steps.
The aeroplane, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, was carrying 76 passengers and four crew on its flight to Northern Ireland. Immediately on landing, protective foam was sprayed around the aircraft as a precautionary measure.
Billy Pollock (60) from Helen's Bay in north Down was on the plane. He said: "This was to be my last flight of 2014 and it so easily could have been my last flight of all. It was scary.
"I've flown hundreds of thousands of miles but I've never experienced anything like this before."
"The plane had a problem in Glasgow and we had to get off and got back on again for the half-hour flight.
"About 10 minutes in I looked out the window and saw an engine on fire. Stewards contacted the captain and he switched the engine off.
He said the captain of the plane did a superb job in landing the aircraft on one engine.
"The plane landed safely. It was a good landing but we were told to immediately evacuate."
Mr Pollock said he was one of the people who had to brave a leap into the dark down onto the rain-lashed Tarmac of the runway.
"As I was at the back door I had to jump out because there were no steps. I went over on my elbow and grazed it."
Other passengers called the incident "terrifying and nightmarish", and described seeing a "fireball which lit up the whole side of the plane".
Quintin Oliver was also on the flight.
He said: "It's a short 20 to 25-minute flight and there was a visible shudder throughout the plane and those on the left hand side behind the engine clearly saw it burst into flames.
"Some of them described it as a burning rocket, as the flames were shooting out the back and the plane lurched a little, not dramatically, but a little, as it presumably stabilised on the second engine.
"There was a lot of apprehension. There was no hysteria. The staff were as reassuring as they could be but they were visibly shaken as well, which doesn't exactly command confidence amongst the passengers."
Passenger Owen Glenn said there had been a "big fireball in one of the engines, which lit up the whole side of the plane".
"There were sparks coming out. So they shut down that engine. We were running on one engine after that," he said.
"People were getting a little panicked. The crew were doing their best to calm everybody down but people weren't really sure what was happening."
Simon Tiernan (31) was in Scotland on business. He said: "It was rough and I'm just pleased to be alive. I don't quite think it has quite sunk in, to be honest."
Mr Tiernan added: "People sitting closest to the fire were in a bit of a panic, but there was a jovial atmosphere among the other passengers and I have to say the crew were absolutely fantastic."
One passenger was taken to hospital following the emergency runway evacuation.
The cause of the engine fire is now under investigation, according to a Flybe spokeswoman.
Brian Ambrose, chief executive of Belfast City Airport, said: "The exact cause of the incident is not yet known, but everyone was safely disembarked from the aircraft."
The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch in London confirmed that it will be conducting a full investigation into the incident and will make public its findings.
One runway at Belfast International Airport remains closed while the blaze-hit Flybe plane is examined by the investigators. A second runway remains operational.
A Flybe spokeswoman said: "Flybe can confirm that flight BE130 from Glasgow to Belfast City diverted to Belfast International Airport due a small engine fire, which was extinguished before landing. The emergency services attended as a routine and precautionary measure. Passengers disembarked the aircraft safely and will be transferred onto Belfast City Airport by road transport."