Flybe flight makes emergency landing in Belfast: crews scrambled over fears of fire on plane
Passengers tell of abrupt landing after cockpit sensor alarm
A Flybe plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Belfast yesterday after reports of smoke on board.
Ten fire appliances and emergency crews lined the runway as the flight from Southampton touched down at George Best Belfast City Airport.
It was the second time in just two weeks that a Flybe flight to Belfast City had to make an emergency landing. On December 16, a flight from Glasgow was diverted to Belfast International after an engine caught fire.
Last night's drama began when the pilot requested emergency procedures to be put in place on the ground over fears of another blaze. A warning light in the cockpit had indicated there was smoke in the rear baggage hold.
Those on board say the Dash 8 turbo-prop descended quickly although they had no idea that anything might be wrong, and no one had smelled smoke or fumes.
No one was injured, and all 69 passengers and four crew quickly disembarked using the stairs shortly before 6pm.
Aerospace engineer Dr Michael Ludlow and his wife Fiona were sitting three rows from the back of the plane.
Dr Ludlow said: "As we were coming in there was a large whoosh of air as if the door had been opened. The next thing there was a call for 'crews to station'. As soon as you hear that, you know there's something wrong.
"Two crew members got up to see if they could see anything but they sat down and we landed. Then we were told to get off the plane as quickly as possible."
Mrs Ludlow added: "There was no hanging about and as soon as we got off there were fire engines. Thank goodness it didn't happen while we were over the sea."
The emergency landing came as a surprise to many passengers, including Clifford Holmes.
"The plane went down quite quickly I think because my ears were very sore," he said. "My wife said the engine seemed to be revving and slowing down and revving again. The plane didn't come to the terminal, they kept it in the middle of the airport, and then we saw the fire engines coming. No smoke, no flames."
Those on board were told to leave their bags and disembark the aircraft. From there, they were bussed to the main building, where they collected their luggage.
The passengers were given tea and coffee before being ushered to a conference centre, where their bags were brought in, piled high on airport trolleys. They praised the cabin crew for their swift action, and as many left the airport, they hoped for a smoother New Year.
Flybe chief commercial officer Paul Simmons said the aircraft had landed "perfectly safely".
"The passengers were not aware of the situation and disembarked on both sets of stairs in the normal way," he said.
Mr Simmons added that there would be an investigation.
"There was no fire and there was no smoke. It looks like it was a warning light that went wrong in some way, but there will be a full investigation."
A Flybe spokesperson said: "Flybe can confirm there was no sign of smoke when the aircraft had landed."
Just two weeks ago another Flybe plane made an emergency landing at Belfast International when one of its engines went on fire. Six months earlier, a Flybe flight from Southampton to Belfast was diverted after the right engine was shut down due to a malfunction. In August 2013, a Flybe plane from Belfast City was forced to return while still in its initial climb, when crew declared an emergency due to a hydraulic failure.