Singapore Air Flight Causes Scare as Jet Engine Catches Fire

singapore airline

A damaged Singapore Airlines aircraft is towed at Changi airport in Singapore.

Photographer: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images
  • All 222 passengers, 19 crew on board evacuated without injury
  • Boeing 777-300ER jet returned to Changi after engine warning

A Singapore Airlines Ltd. jet carrying 241 passengers and crew caught fire while landing at the city’s Changi Airport Monday morning after aborting a trip to Milan due to an engine-oil warning message.

The aircraft’s right engine caught fire after the jet touched down at about 6:50 a.m. local time, the airline said in an e-mailed statement. Emergency crew rushed to put out the fire on the Boeing Co. 777-300ER aircraft and there were no injuries to the 222 passengers and 19 crew on board, the airline said. SQ368 was flying to Milan from Singapore.

General Electric Co. made the two GE90-115B engines that powered the twin-aisle aircraft, a popular plane among carriers for flying long-distance routes. Passengers disembarked through stairs and were transported to the terminal building by bus, the airline said, adding it will cooperate with the authorities on investigations.

Plane-engine fires are rare and the Boeing 777 is one of the safest aircraft in the world, with only five of them having suffered irreparable damage since introduction in 1993, according to Aviation Safety Network. Singapore Air’s last fatal hull-loss accident was in October 2000 when Flight 006 crashed as it tried to take off from a closed runway in Taipei, Taiwan, killing 83 people.

Fire, Smoke

“This is an extremely safe engine used on an extremely safe jet operated by an extremely safe airline,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal Group. “So, this is a highly unusual incident.”

Channel NewsAsia, the main news channel in the city-state, posted photographs and videos of the jet on fire and thick, black smoke could be seen billowing from the back of the right wing. The plane was returning to Singapore after more than two hours into the flight, the report said, citing passengers who complained of strong smell of fuel inside the cabin.

While aircraft are designed to fly on even a single engine, any structural damage or leak of oil or fuel will prompt the pilot to return to base or to land the plane at the nearest aerodrome.

Singapore Air said it will need to assess the damage to the aircraft, which has been in service for nine years and seven months. The carrier, Southeast Asia’s biggest by market value, operates 27 777-300ER planes, according to its website. GE90-115B engines power those airplanes, it said.

Korean Air

Of the five 777s that have suffered irreparable damage, two incidents were on the tarmac of airports in London and Cairo. An Asiana Airlines Inc. plane landed short of a runway at San Francisco airport in 2013 while Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was suspected of being shot down over Ukraine in 2014 by a missile. And then there’s MH370, a jet that disappeared more than two years back and is believed to have crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

Monday’s incident comes after an engine of Korean Air Lines Co.’s 777 aircraft caught fire on the runway at Haneda airport in Japan as it was about to depart for Seoul on May 27.

Boeing is “aware of the situation and gathering information,” the Chicago-based aircraft maker said in an e-mailed response to a query, without elaborating. GE said in an e-mail that it has sent technical representatives to the scene, adding it continually monitors and analyzes the more than 2,000 such engines in service and it isn’t aware of “any issues that would hazard the safe flight of aircraft” powered by this engine.

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