Distressed Plane Flew Over Putney To Return To Heathrow

Questions asked by London Assembly about the BA plane with a burning engine

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Image from passenger of the burning engine

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Richard Tracey, London Assembly Member for Merton and Wandsworth, has written to Heathrow authorities to ask why the BA aircraft with its engine ablaze was routed to fly back into Heathrow last week rather than being diverted elsewhere.

Richard's questions followed worried enquiries from Wandsworth councillors Rosemary Torrington and James Maddan who represent the riversideThamesfield ward on the flightpath.

He wrote, "I represent Wandsworth and Merton GLA constituency comprising around 500,000 people.

"Can I ask why Heathrow/BA decided to bring in a plane in flames right over central London rather than landing it in a country airfield like Farnborough or some such safer location.

"Could you please provide me with an answer promptly."

He received a prompt response as requested from Abigail Morris, Heathrow's Government Relations Manager: "The normal procedure in these circumstances if for the Captain to decide what is the safest course of action, and this is what happened in this case. This is an approved procedure.

I appreciate you wanted a quick answer, and I hope this covers that request, but happy to meet and discuss the procedures in more detail alongside our BA colleagues if this would be helpful."

Richard Tracey has reported back to his Conservative colleagues on Wandsworth Council, but still they feel that, as the blazing aircraft flew over Hertfordshire and Essex before returning to Heathrow over east London and then the densely populated west London boroughs, a decison should have been taken to divert it to one of the less populated areas with an airport

Richard comments, " My colleagues say the aircraft, with an engine on fire flew over Slough, Watford, and parts of Essex, before returning over the Thames Estuary and crossing south London, Battersea, Putney, Chelsea, Fulham, Hammersmith and Hounslow. This is complete madness. Three or four million people on the ground were put at risk and thousands of travellers from Heathrow had their flights cancelled. Incoming flights were diverted to Stansted, Luton, Cardiff, even Manston, and departing flights cancelled. Some flights were still being cancelled 24 hours later.

"We are now seriously considering taking this further , including talks with Heathrow and British Airways"

Local residents made their concerns clear on the Putney Forum. Regular contributor Jonathan Callaway wrote: "The more I think about it the more astounding it is that this plane was allowed to fly back over the centre of London while clearly struggling with one engine fire and damage to the second engine. I know it landed safely but surely it should have been diverted to Stansted or another airport away from built-up areas."

May 29, 2013