LONDON – The nosewheel of a British Airways passenger jet collapsed with a loud bang as it landed Friday evening at London City Airport, sending the plane scraping across the tarmac with 71 people aboard, officials and witnesses said. All aboard escaped by emergency slides, but one person was taken to a hospital with a minor injury.
The scene showing the British Airways aeroplane at London City Airport on Friday, February 13, 2009. [Agencies]
The plane was arriving from Amsterdam about 8 pm when the front landing gear failed and the front of the plane slammed onto the runway and skidded, officials and firefighters said.
"As a precaution the emergency slides were deployed and passengers were evacuated down the slides onto the runway," British Airways said. "One passenger suffered a minor injury."
The airline said it did not yet know what caused the landing gear problem on the Avro 146 RJ100, which had been carrying 67 passengers and four crew members. The government sent three investigators to the scene.
"There was obviously quite a loud bang as the plane scratched in," passenger Justin Fletcher told the British Broadcasting Corp. "The stewards and stewardesses were quick to evacuate everyone off. There was a few scrapes and cuts due to hitting the asphalt. All in all everyone seems to be doing quite well now."
In addition to the person who received hospital treatment, four others were treated for minor injuries at the scene. There were no further details on the injuries.
The east London airport's only runway was closed, forcing 11 flights to be diverted to other airports, officials said. The airport handles about 80,00 flights yearly, mainly domestic and European.
The aircraft remained on the runway Friday evening, surrounded by fire trucks and maintenance crews. Police officers also arrived to get witness statements from passengers.
City Airport said after the incident, passengers were brought to the terminal where they were checked for any problems and provided with food.
Passenger Ray Hamblin said there was smoke inside the aircraft after the landing, but officials from City Airport and British Airways said they were not aware of any smoke.
"The front wheel collapsed, the cabin filled with smoke and everyone had to vacate from the rear of the plane," Hamblin said. "As I came off the emergency slide I hit my wrist on the runway. I think there are a couple of people with cuts and scrapes."
The Avro 146 RJ100, a four-engine plane made by BAE Systems, has a capacity for 100 passengers. Officials say the aircraft design makes it suitable for landings on poor quality runways.
The accident in London came a day after a commuter plane nose-dived into a suburban house in upstate New York, killing all 49 people aboard and one person in the home.
City Airport had to close for an hour earlier this month when the front wheel on a jetliner bent out of shape. No passengers on that flight were evacuated.
Recent plane crashes in Britain have involved smaller aircraft — earlier this week Royal Air Force light aircraft collided near a nature reserve in Wales, killing four people. Last year, two pilots and three passengers were killed when a Cessna jet crashed into a house in Kent in south east England.