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Airport handling of emergency was exemplary

I am writing to clarify some of the comments that appeared in your newspaper (News, Dec 18) regarding the emergency landing of the Flybe Glasgow flight last Tuesday. Flight BE 130 diverted from George Best Belfast City Airport to Belfast International Airport due to our longer runway and easier approach.

For the 80 passengers and crew on board, this was a traumatic experience. Our priority was to get the passengers to safety and extinguish the engine fire. We succeeded on both counts.

This was a dynamic and dangerous situation but that seems to have been lost on one of your contributors who was moved to make what I felt was unjustified criticism. As in all such situations, there will be a review of this most serious incident and if that produces recommendations, we will not be slow in incorporating them.

We have compiled a timeline of what actually happened.

At 18.38pm flight BE130 declared a Mayday. The aircraft landed at 18.47pm. With nine minutes warning, the airport immediately invoked its emergency procedures. All staff on site went on standby for its arrival. Once the aircraft landed safely, the firefighting team followed the aircraft down the runway until it came to a complete stop.

The aircraft port engine still had flames and smoke visible, which they set about extinguishing while also assisting passengers and crew evacuate from the aircraft safely. Passengers disembarked the aircraft by 18.50pm. At 18.52pm, airport buses arrived and by 19.07 passengers were in the terminal building.

We have a Passenger Emergency Marshalling System (PEMS) vehicle that is activated during this type of incident which has a visible and audible messaging system to direct passengers from a stricken aircraft to a holding point where they can be accounted for in a safe manner before being transported to the terminal. Invariably, this will take several minutes, particularly when leaving the aircraft from four different exits on a dark and particularly miserable evening.

Can I assure your readers and those passengers involved that there was an incident commander on site directing the safe evacuation of these passengers.

While I appreciate this took several minutes and would have been disorientating and frightening for those involved, passengers were not at risk at any time. Our fire and operations teams constantly train for this type of incident. Their professionalism at the scene was clearly in evidence and was commended by some of the passengers on the stricken aircraft.

GRAHAM KEDDIE

Managing director, Belfast International Airport

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