Cockpit fire forces Qantas plane to land

An electrical fault caused small flames near left-hand windscreen of cockpit.

Updated: Mar 24, 2011, 09:55 AM IST

Sydney: A cockpit fire forced a Qantas Airbus A330-200 to make an unscheduled landing at Cairns in the latest of a string of problems for the Australian carrier.

The plane on Thursday was en route from Manila to Sydney when an electrical fault caused smoke and small flames near the left-hand windscreen of the cockpit.

The pilots used an extinguisher to douse the fire and diverted to the nearest airport -- Cairns, in tropical north Queensland -- where they landed safely in the early hours of the morning.

"A windscreen heating electrical fault occurred which caused smoke and small one-two centimetre flames near the left hand windscreen in the cockpit which the pilots extinguished," a Qantas spokesman said.

"We have started an internal investigation to establish the cause of the incident and have notified the Australian Transport Safety Bureau."

He added that no ill effects or injuries were experienced by any of the 147 passengers or 11 crew, and emergency services were not needed at Cairns, where the plane touched down 50 minutes after the mid-air drama.

A passenger told The Sydney Morning Herald that the incident was "truly scary".

"There was a burning smell in the cabin that was very strong, and then the captain came over the loudspeaker and explained an electrical problem meant there was a serious risk of fire," he said.

"Later he explained flames had come back for a second time and they`d had to use a fire extinguisher in the cockpit."

Qantas paid tribute to the pilots for staying calm.

"The pilots did a fantastic job to bring the situation under control and calmly redirected the plane to Cairns Airport for a standard, but unscheduled landing," he said.

Qantas has endured a dramatic few months. Last November, it temporarily suspended flights of its Airbus A380 superjumbos after an engine on one exploded after taking off from Singapore, damaging the plane.

Then in January, a flight bound for New York made an unscheduled stop in Fiji after the Boeing 747 developed a problem with a fuel valve supplying one of its engines.

Soon after, another Boeing 747 suffered mid-air mechanical trouble soon after taking off from Bangkok and was forced to return to the Thai capital.

Bureau Report