Onward! British Airways Pilots Undeterred by Burning Engine

Looking out the window of a British Airways 747, passengers might have been shocked to see flames shooting out the engine, like the afterburners on a military jet at an air show. But this was no air show, and the soundtrack did not include the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”

Air traffic controllers at LAX alerted the pilots that their engine was on fire, but to the ground controllers’ surprise, the plane didn’t return to the airport for repairs.

The pilot’s answer: “We just decided we want to set off on our flight-plan route and get as far as we can.”

“As far as we can” ?? Umm, a plane can’t just pull over at the side of the road and wait for AAA.

Even though the 747 is generally capable of using 3 engines instead of 4, why take the chance of further problems arising? The pilots are accused of trying to save the airline from paying compensation for delays (reportedly


Beyond machismo and cost-savings, we are left to assume that wagers were involved. The plane eventually made an emergency landing in Manchester, just shy of London. It’s unclear who won or lost the bet.

Air controllers amazed as BA pilot flies despite fire [Guardian]


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    Wait a sec. This plane flew half way around the world with three engines and with only a couple of feet to go they land in Manchester? Jeesh, even I would have gone for it.

    Still, this was a snap decision at first and then confirmation of that snap decision for several hours. This guy needs to be fired.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    So, he decided to fly ACROSS THE OCEAN to see “if he could make it”… nevermind that no plane that’s ever crashed into the ocean has ever had any survivors. Ever. Talk about binary.

  3. adamondi says:

    Even possessing the knowledge that a 747 can take off, fly, and land with just one of its four engines, I would not be happy as a passenger to see an engine flame out on the wing and then hear the pilot say, “Hey folks, we are approaching cruising altitude. Please pay no attention to the fireball where the engine nacelle used to be. We are pretty sure we will be fine crossing the entire United States and the Atlantic Ocean. Trust us.”

    I wonder how much Xanax had to be consumed on that flight…. Maybe the flight attendants were selling it for $5 a pill or something.

  4. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Agreed. Even if you don’t need all of the engines functioning to fly the thing, the idea behind having that margin of error is that you begin a flight with everything working properly. They didn’t do that here!

  5. xboxishuge says:

    I’m more concerned with how the plane got off the ground, what with the added weight of the pilot’s giant brass balls and all.

    And hey, if there was ever an excuse to get drunk on a plane, this is it.

  6. Dr. Eirik says:

    DeeJayQueue: Actually, that’s not true. Back in the ’60’s, a DC-8 I beleive, had a water landing in the Carabian after they ran out of fuel. The plane actually stayed afloat long enough for most of the passengers and crew to escape. It was detailed in a rather good series of books called “Air Disasters” by MacArthur Job.

    At the moment, that’s the only example I can think of, however, and it does strike me as a little thick to take a fully loaded 747 over the North Atlantic like that. Heck, over the populated US. What if the engine started shedding parts over a major city?

  7. Ben says:

    Like that old joke, where the captain keeps coming on the intercom and saying “we just lost engine number X, we’ll be delayed an extra hour to our destination” and some wiseass finally says (when they get down to one engine), “I sure hope that last one doesn’t go, we’ll be up here all day!”

    Isn’t this an old story? Or does BA make a habit of flying from LA back home with mechanical problems? I seem to remember this happening before.

  8. It’s just a flesh-wound.

  9. Clare says:

    The plane’s not dead! It’s getting better!

  10. timmus says:

    Wait… isn’t LAX usually crawling with hordes of plane spotters? How come nobody saw this? Something smells fishy.

    Dr. Eirik — That was an Overseas National Airways DC-9 that flew SJU-JFK.

  11. Kat says:

    Okay, normally I wouldn’t correct spelling… but when it’s mangled that badly…


    (I’ll STFU now…)

  12. Gary Potter says:

    If it was an BA 747 why the picture of an AA 767?

  13. Ishmael says:

    OK, not nearly as serious, but still interesting. I got on a little puddle-jumper plane this weekend to fly to DFW. Before we took off, the pilot came through with a WELL-USED roll of duct tape. One of the overhead bins had a broken latch, and wouldn’t shut. So he duct-taped the thing closed. What’s even worse is that it didn’t hold. The guy sitting in the seat below the bin rolled up his SkyMall magazine and crammed it between the door and the bin, which made it stay. I was on a 45 minute flight with part of my plane held together with duct tape and a magazine.

    Airline? American Airlines.

  14. 75Sasha says:

    Ishmael, was it the American Eagle arm of American? I have to fly one of those next week. I’m 5ft 1in and have to duck to get on the plane.

  15. factotum says:

    Actually, the pic is of a 777 (6 wheels per bogie) and the takeoff was at night which explains lack of spotter pics.

    What’s interesting is the incident happened months ago and is only now being rehashed because the FAA dropped its fine against BA. What BA did was within the operating parameters of both the airline and the plane manufacturer, Boeing.

  16. Anonymous says:

    This happens more often than you think, but not so obviously. Friend of mine on Qantas was told they’d be flying across the country on three engines simply because they couldn’t get the parts for one – they were polite enough to offer a refund first!