British Airways Jet Evacuated at Heathrow on Engine Fault

A British Airways jetliner carrying 75 passengers was evacuated on the runway at London’s Heathrow airport, with television pictures of the plane’s approach showing smoke spewing from one engine.

Customers and five crew exited safely after escape chutes were deployed, following which both landing strips at Europe’s busiest air hub were initially closed. The disruption caused the cancellation of 186 flights, Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd. said, with BA scrapping all short-haul services through 4 p.m.

Flight BA762 departed Heathrow for Oslo at 8:16 a.m. before turning back with a technical fault and landing at 8:43 a.m., British Airways said. The plane involved was a twin-engine Airbus SAS A319 narrow-body, typically used on European routes.

Images screened by Sky News showed a trail of smoke streaming from the aircraft’s right-hand engine as it flew over west London on its return to the airport. The aircraft landed on the north runway, where its slides were released, BA said.

The plane concerned is powered by engines made by the International Aero Engines venture led by the Pratt & Whitney unit of U.S.-based United Technologies Corp.

British Airways said a full investigation of what it termed an “engine technical fault” will be carried out, and the U.K. Department for Transport said the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has been notified and sent a team to the scene.

While Heathrow’s southern runway reopened soon after the incident, with the other resuming flights within 2 1/2 hours, British Airways canceled all afternoon short-haul services, saying it needed to “stabilize” its schedule and prioritize inter-continental operations.

Twenty-two aircraft were also diverted to seven U.K. airports, and Heathrow said people should check with their airline before setting off to catch their flight.