Failed engines blamed in British Airways crash landing

Peter Burkill
Peter Burkill

Captain Peter Burkill, centre, and his crew Cabin Service Director Sharron Eaton-Mercer, right, and First Senior Officer John Coward, who were flying the British Airways Boeing 777 plane flying from China that landed short of the runway at London's Heathrow Airport, pose together after reading a statement at the airport, Friday Jan. 18, 2008. A British Airways passenger jet crash landed Thursday at Heathrow airport, tearing its underbelly, damaging its wings and skidding to a halt before emergency chutes deployed. All 152 passengers and crew escaped safely, but eight suffered injuries.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 10:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 10:04 p.m.

LONDON - The engines on a British Airways plane that crash-landed at London's Heathrow airport failed to respond for a demand to increase thrust about two miles before it reached the runway, a preliminary accident report said Friday.

Using flight recorder information, investigators will focus on what might have caused the engine problem on British Airways Flight 038 from Beijing to London, according to the report from Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

The British Airways Boeing 777 made a crunching touchdown short of the runway on Thursday, ripping off the plane's landing gear and severely damaging the two engines and wings. Nineteen injuries were reported among the 152 people aboard.

"The aircraft speed reduced and the aircraft descended onto the grass short of the paved runway surface," the report said.

The captain of the jet paid tribute to his co-pilot, saying his actions to safely bring down the stricken plane were remarkable.

"Flying is about teamwork, and we had a fantastic team on board," Capt. Peter Burkill told reporters at British Airways' London headquarters, before singling out Senior First Officer John Coward, who was at the controls, for special praise.

More than 53 flights from Heathrow airport were canceled early Friday in the continuing disruption caused by the crash landing at Europe's busiest airport. The crumpled plane remained on the runway Friday.

British Airways had said it expected to operate all of its long-haul flights from Heathrow on Friday and 90 percent of short-haul operations.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a team to assist in the investigation.

David Gleave, the chief safety investigator at Aviation Hazard Analysis, a private company, said a bird strike or fuel shortage would be among the possibilities investigators would consider as being behind the accident.

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