Accident and Serious Incident Reports: FIRE

Definition

Accident and Incident Reports relating to accidents which involved fire.

Non-Fire Fumes

On 17 November 2017, an Airbus A320 flight crew were both partially incapacitated by the effect of fumes described as acrid and stinging which they detected when following another smaller aircraft to the holding point at Geneva and then waiting in line behind it before taking off, the effect of which rapidly worsened en-route and necessitated a precautionary diversion to Marseilles. The very thorough subsequent Investigation was unable to determine the origin or nature of the fumes encountered but circumstantial evidence pointed tentatively towards ingestion of engine exhaust from the aircraft ahead in one or both A320 engines.

On 3 August 2018, smoke appeared and began to intensify in the passenger cabin but not the flight deck of an Airbus A319 taxiing for departure at Helsinki. Cabin crew notified the Captain who stopped the aircraft and sanctioned an emergency evacuation. This then commenced whilst the engines were still running and inadequate instructions to passengers resulted in a completely disorderly evacuation. The Investigation attributed this to inadequate crew procedures which only envisaged an evacuation ordered by the Captain for reasons they were directly aware of and not a situation where the evacuation need was only obvious in the cabin.

On 23 September 2019, the flight crew of an Airbus A320 on approach to London Heathrow detected strong acrid fumes on the flight deck and after donning oxygen masks completed the approach and landing, exited the runway and shut down on a taxiway. After removing their masks, one pilot became incapacitated and the other unwell and both were taken to hospital. The other occupants, all unaffected, were disembarked to buses. The very comprehensive investigation was unable to establish the origin of the fumes but did identify a number of circumstantial factors which corresponded to those identified in previous similar events.

On 28 February 2019, an Airbus A320 abandoned takeoff from Exeter when fight deck fumes/smoke accompanied thrust applied against the brakes. When informed of similar conditions in the cabin, the Captain ordered an emergency evacuation. Some passengers using the overwing exits re-entered the cabin after becoming confused as to how to leave the wing. The Investigation attributed the fumes to an incorrectly-performed engine compressor wash arising in a context of poorly-managed maintenance and concluded that guidance on overwing exit use had been inadequate and that the 1.8 metre certification height limit for exits without evacuation slides should be reduced.

On 16 April 2012, a Virgin Atlantic A330-300 made an air turnback to London Gatwick after repetitive hold smoke detector warnings began to occur during the climb. Continuing uncertainty about whether the warnings, which continued after landing, were false led to the decision to order an emergency evacuation on the runway. Subsequent investigation found that the smoke warnings had all been false and had mainly come from one faulty detector. It also found that aspects of the way the evacuation had taken place had indicated where there were opportunities to try and improve passenger behaviour.

Dangerous Goods

On 27 October 2019, an under-floor hold fire warning was annunciated in the flight deck of a Boeing 737-900 which had been pushed back at Paris CDG and was about to begin taxiing. Since there were no signs of fire in the passenger cabin or during an emergency services external inspection, a non-emergency disembarkation of all occupants was made. The hold concerned was then opened and fire damage sourced to the overheated lithium battery in a passenger wheelchair was discovered. The Investigation identified a number of weaknesses in both the applicable loading procedures and compliance with the ones in place.

On 28 July 2011, 50 minutes after take off from Incheon, the crew of an Asiana Boeing 747-400F declared an emergency advising a main deck fire and an intention to divert to Jeju. The effects of the rapidly escalating fire eventually made it impossible to retain control and the aircraft crashed into the sea. The Investigation concluded that the origin of the fire was two adjacent pallets towards the rear of the main deck which contained Dangerous Goods shipments including Lithium ion batteries and flammable substances and that the aircraft had broken apart in mid-air following the loss of control.

On 7 October 2013 a fire was discovered in the rear hold of an Airbus A330 shortly after it had arrived at its parking stand after an international passenger flight. The fire was eventually extinguished but only after substantial fire damage had been caused to the hold. The subsequent Investigation found that the actions of the flight crew, ground crew and airport fire service following the discovery of the fire had all been unsatisfactory. It also established that the source of the fire had been inadequately packed dangerous goods in passengers checked baggage on the just-completed flight.

On 6 December 2013, a Boeing 737-800 passenger aircraft was flown from Amman to Dubai out of revenue service with a quantity of 'live' boxed chemical oxygen generators on board as cargo without the awareness of the aircraft commander. The subsequent Investigation found that this was possible because of a wholesale failure of the aircraft operator to effectively oversee operational risk implicit in sub contracting heavy maintenance. As a result of the investigation, a previously unreported flight by the same operator in revenue service which had also carried live oxygen generators was disclosed.

On 3 September 2010, a UPS Boeing 747-400 freighter flight crew became aware of a main deck cargo fire 22 minutes after take off from Dubai. An emergency was declared and an air turn back commenced but a rapid build up of smoke on the flight deck made it increasingly difficult to see on the flight deck and to control the aircraft. An unsuccessful attempt to land at Dubai was followed by complete loss of flight control authority due to fire damage and terrain impact followed. The fire was attributed to auto-ignition of undeclared Dangerous Goods originally loaded in Hong Kong.

Fire - Cabin Baggage Origin

B738 diversion into KCOS following in-flight fire. The fire started after a passenger's air purifier device caught fire whilst in use during the flight. The user received minor burns and the aircraft cabin sustained minor damage.

On 10 February 2007, smoke was observed coming from an overhead locker on an Airbus A320 which had just departed from New York JFK. It was successfully dealt by cabin crew fire extinguisher use whilst an emergency was declared and a precautionary air turn back made with the aircraft back on the ground six minutes later. The subsequent investigation attributed the fire to a short circuit of unexplained origin in one of a number of spare lithium batteries contained in a passenger's camera case, some packaged an some loose which had led to three of then sustaining fire damage.

Fire - Electrical Origin

On 12 July 2013 an unoccupied and unpowered Boeing 787-8, remotely parked at London Heathrow after an arrival earlier the same day caught fire. An investigation found that the source of the fire was an uncontained thermal runaway in the lithium-metal battery within an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). Fifteen Safety Recommendations, all but one to the FAA, were made as a result of the Investigation.

On 31 January 2011, a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-800 was in the cruise when there was sudden loud noise and signs of associated electrical smoke and potential burning in a toilet compartment with a corresponding ECAM smoke alert. After a fire extinguisher had been discharged into the apparent source, there were no further signs of fire or smoke. Subsequent investigation found signs of burning below the toilet floor and it was concluded that excessive current caused by a short circuit which had resulted from a degraded cable had been the likely cause, with over current protection limiting the damage caused by overheating.

On 29 July 2011 an oxygen-fed fire started in the flight deck of an Egypt Air Boeing 777-200 about to depart from Cairo with most passengers boarded. The fire rapidly took hold despite attempts at extinguishing it but all passengers were safely evacuated via the still-attached air bridge access to doors 1L and 2L. The flight deck and adjacent structure was severely damaged. The Investigation could not conclusively determine the cause of the fire but suspected that wiring damage attributable to inadequately secured cabling may have provided a source of ignition for an oxygen leak from the crew emergency supply

On 7 January 2013, a battery fire on a Japan Air Lines Boeing 787-8 began almost immediately after passengers and crew had left the aircraft after its arrival at Boston on a scheduled passenger flight from Tokyo Narita. The primary structure of the aircraft was undamaged. Investigation found that an internal short circuit within a cell of the APU lithium-ion battery had led to uncontained thermal runaway in the battery leading to the release of smoke and fire. The origin of the malfunction was attributed to system design deficiency and the failure of the type certification process to detect this.

On 25 May 2016, an Embraer ERJ 190 experienced a major electrical system failure soon after reaching its cruise altitude of FL 360. ATC were advised of problems and a descent to enable the APU to be started was made. This action restored most of the lost systems and the crew, not having declared an emergency, elected to complete their planned 400nm flight. The Investigation found that liquid contamination of an underfloor avionics bay had caused the electrical failure which had also involved fire and smoke without crew awareness because the smoke detection and air recirculation systems had been unpowered.

Fire - Fuel Origin

On 5 August 2019, a Cessa 560XLS touched down in runway undershot at Aarhus whilst making a night ILS approach there and damage sustained when it collided with parts of the ILS LOC antenna caused a fuel leak which after injury-free evacuation of the occupants then ignited destroying most of the aircraft. The Investigation attributed the accident to the Captain’s decision to intentionally fly below the ILS glideslope in order to touch down at the threshold and to the disabling of the EGWPS alerting function in the presence of a steep authority gradient, procedural non-compliance and poor CRM.

On 25 March 2008, an Air Atlanta Icelandic Boeing 747-300 was decelerating after landing at Dhaka when a fuel leak in the vicinity of the No 3 engine led to a fire which could not be extinguished. An emergency evacuation was accomplished with only a few minor injuries. The cause of the fuel leak was traced to mis-assembly of a fuel feed line coupling during a C Check some six months previously. The failure to follow clear AMM instructions for this task in two specific respects was of concern to the Investigating Agency.

On 16 January 2013, an Augusta 109E helicopter positioning by day on an implied (due to adverse weather conditions) SVFR clearance collided with a crane attached to a tall building under construction. It and associated debris fell to street level and the pilot and a pedestrian were killed and several others on the ground injured. It was concluded that the pilot had not seen the crane or seen it too late to avoid whilst flying by visual reference in conditions which had become increasingly challenging. The Investigation recommended improvements in the regulatory context in which the accident had occurred.

On 1 September 2018, a Boeing 737-800, making its second night approach to Sochi beneath a large convective storm with low level windshear reported, floated almost halfway along the wet runway before overrunning it by approximately 400 metres and breaching the perimeter fence before stopping. A small fire did not prevent all occupants from safely evacuating. The Investigation attributed the accident to crew disregard of a number of windshear warnings and a subsequent encounter with horizontal windshear resulting in a late touchdown and noted that the first approach had meant that the crew had been poorly prepared for the second.

On 7 July 2016, a right engine fire warning was annunciated as a Boeing 757-200 got airborne from New York JFK and after shutting the engine down in accordance with the corresponding checklist, an emergency declaration was followed by an immediate and uneventful return to land. After an external inspection confirmed there was no sign of an active fire, the aircraft was taxied to a terminal gate for normal disembarkation. The Investigation found that a fuel-fed fire had occurred because an O-ring had been incorrectly installed on a fuel tube during maintenance prior to the flight.

Fire - Power Plant origin

On 24 January 2005, an Atlas Air Boeing 747-200F overran the end of the landing runway at Düsseldorf after runway braking action notified just prior to landing as medium due to snowfall unexpectedly deteriorated after the snowfall intensified. The overrun led to collision with ground obstacles and engines 2 and 3 caught fire. Escape slide malfunction at the forward left hand door led to an alternative non standard crew evacuation route being used. Significant damage to the aircraft resulted in it being declared a hull loss. The Investigation took almost 8 years to complete and publish.

On 25 March 2008, an Air Atlanta Icelandic Boeing 747-300 was decelerating after landing at Dhaka when a fuel leak in the vicinity of the No 3 engine led to a fire which could not be extinguished. An emergency evacuation was accomplished with only a few minor injuries. The cause of the fuel leak was traced to mis-assembly of a fuel feed line coupling during a C Check some six months previously. The failure to follow clear AMM instructions for this task in two specific respects was of concern to the Investigating Agency.

On 10 June 2008, a Sudan Airways Airbus A310 made a late night touchdown at Khartoum and the actions of the experienced crew were subsequently unable to stop the aircraft, which was in service with one thrust reverser inoperative and locked out, on the wet runway. The aircraft stopped essentially intact some 215 metres beyond the runway end after overrunning on smooth ground but a fuel-fed fire then took hold which impeded evacuation and eventually destroyed the aircraft.

On 24 May 2013 the fan cowl doors on both engines of an Airbus A319 detached as it took off from London Heathrow. Their un-latched status after a routine maintenance input had gone undetected. Extensive structural and system damage resulted and a fire which could not be extinguished until the aircraft was back on the ground began in one engine. Many previously-recorded cases of fan cowl door loss were noted but none involving such significant collateral damage. Safety Recommendations were made on aircraft type certification in general, A320-family aircraft modification, maintenance fatigue risk management and aircrew procedures and training.

On 27 July 2010, a Boeing MD11F being operated by Lufthansa Cargo on a scheduled flight from Frankfurt to Riyadh bounced twice prior to a third hard touchdown whilst attempting to land on 4205 metre-long Runway 33L at destination in normal day visibility. The fuselage was ruptured and, as the aircraft left the side of the runway, the nose landing gear collapsed and a fire began to take hold. A ‘MAYDAY’ call was made as the aircraft slid following the final touchdown. Once the aircraft had come to a stop, the two pilots evacuated before it was largely destroyed by fire. One pilot received minor injuries, the other injuries described as major.

Fire - Underfloor Origin

On 27 October 2019, an under-floor hold fire warning was annunciated in the flight deck of a Boeing 737-900 which had been pushed back at Paris CDG and was about to begin taxiing. Since there were no signs of fire in the passenger cabin or during an emergency services external inspection, a non-emergency disembarkation of all occupants was made. The hold concerned was then opened and fire damage sourced to the overheated lithium battery in a passenger wheelchair was discovered. The Investigation identified a number of weaknesses in both the applicable loading procedures and compliance with the ones in place.

On 31 January 2011, a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-800 was in the cruise when there was sudden loud noise and signs of associated electrical smoke and potential burning in a toilet compartment with a corresponding ECAM smoke alert. After a fire extinguisher had been discharged into the apparent source, there were no further signs of fire or smoke. Subsequent investigation found signs of burning below the toilet floor and it was concluded that excessive current caused by a short circuit which had resulted from a degraded cable had been the likely cause, with over current protection limiting the damage caused by overheating.

On 29 July 2011 an oxygen-fed fire started in the flight deck of an Egypt Air Boeing 777-200 about to depart from Cairo with most passengers boarded. The fire rapidly took hold despite attempts at extinguishing it but all passengers were safely evacuated via the still-attached air bridge access to doors 1L and 2L. The flight deck and adjacent structure was severely damaged. The Investigation could not conclusively determine the cause of the fire but suspected that wiring damage attributable to inadequately secured cabling may have provided a source of ignition for an oxygen leak from the crew emergency supply

On 7 January 2013, a battery fire on a Japan Air Lines Boeing 787-8 began almost immediately after passengers and crew had left the aircraft after its arrival at Boston on a scheduled passenger flight from Tokyo Narita. The primary structure of the aircraft was undamaged. Investigation found that an internal short circuit within a cell of the APU lithium-ion battery had led to uncontained thermal runaway in the battery leading to the release of smoke and fire. The origin of the malfunction was attributed to system design deficiency and the failure of the type certification process to detect this.

On 25 May 2016, an Embraer ERJ 190 experienced a major electrical system failure soon after reaching its cruise altitude of FL 360. ATC were advised of problems and a descent to enable the APU to be started was made. This action restored most of the lost systems and the crew, not having declared an emergency, elected to complete their planned 400nm flight. The Investigation found that liquid contamination of an underfloor avionics bay had caused the electrical failure which had also involved fire and smoke without crew awareness because the smoke detection and air recirculation systems had been unpowered.

Fire - Galley

none on SKYbrary

De-Ice Fluid Contamination

On 20 January 2015, The APU of a Fokker 100 being routinely de-iced prior to departing Nuremburg oversped as a result of the ignition of ingested de-icing fluid in the APU. This led to its explosive uncontained failure as the result of which ejected debris entered the aft cabin and smoke occurred. No occupants were injured and all were promptly disembarked. The Investigation found that the de-icing contractor involved had not followed manufacturer-issued aircraft-specific de-icing procedures and in the continued absence of any applicable safety regulatory oversight of ground de-icing activity, corresponding Safety Recommendations were made.

On 2 March 2009, communication difficulties and inadequate operator procedures led to an Airbus A320-200 being de-iced inappropriately prior to departure from Vasteras and fumes entered the air conditioning system via the APU. Although steps were then taken before departure in an attempt to clear the contamination, it returned once airborne. The flight crew decided to don their oxygen masks and complete the flight to Poznan. Similar fumes in the passenger cabin led to only temporary effects which were alleviated by the use of therapeutic oxygen. The Investigation concluded that no health risks arose from exposure to the fumes involved.

On 26 January 2006, when fixed ground electrical power was connected to an Avro RJ100 which had just reached its destination parking gate at Zurich, a flash fire occurred which was visible in the flight deck and an emergency evacuation was ordered. As the air bridge was by this time attached to door 1L,the cabin crew deplaned the passengers that way and no slides were deployed. The Investigation concluded that the fire had been caused by contamination of the ground power connector with ramp de icing fluid and found that there has been similar previous events.

Electrical Fumes - No Fire

On 6 February 2019, an Airbus A330-200 Captain’s Audio Control Panel (ACP) malfunctioned and began to emit smoke and electrical fumes after coffee was spilt on it. Subsequently, the right side ACP also failed, becoming hot enough to begin melting its plastic. Given the consequent significant communications difficulties, a turnback to Shannon was with both pilots taking turns to go on oxygen. The Investigation found that flight deck drinks were routinely served in unlidded cups with the cup size in use incompatible with the available cup holders. Pending provision of suitably-sized cups, the operator decided to begin providing cup lids.

On 24 August 2016, an ATR 72-600 experienced a static inverter failure which resulted in smoke and fumes which were identifiably electrical. Oxygen masks were donned, a MAYDAY declared and after the appropriate procedures had been followed, the smoke / fumes ceased. The Investigation noted a long history of capacitor failures affecting this unit which continued to be addressed by successive non-mandatory upgrades including another after this event. However, it was also found that there was no guidance on the re-instatement of systems disabled during the initial response to such events, in particular the total loss of AC electrical power.

On 13 March 2013, smoke and fumes were immediately evident when the cable of an external GPU was connected to an ERJ170 aircraft on arrival after flight with passengers still on board. A precautionary rapid disembarkation was conducted. The Investigation found that a short circuit had caused extensive heat damage to the internal part of the aircraft GPU receptacle and minor damage to the surrounding structure and that the short circuit had occurred due to metallic FOD lodged within the external connecting box of aircraft GPU receptacle.

On 16 January 2013, a main battery failure alert message accompanied by a burning smell in the flight deck was annunciated as an ANA Boeing 787-8 climbed through FL320 on a domestic flight. A diversion was immediately initiated and an emergency declared. A landing at Takamatsu was made 20 minutes later and an emergency evacuation completed. The Investigation found that the battery had been destroyed when thermal runway followed a suspected internal short circuit in one of the battery cells and concluded that certification had underestimated the potential consequences of such a single cell failure.

On 10 January 2009, a Boeing 747-400 being operated by British Airways on a scheduled passenger flight from Phoenix USA to London had been pushed back from the gate in normal daylight visibility and the engines start was continuing when fumes and smoke were observed in the cabin and flight deck. The aircraft commander decided to return to the stand but there was some delay while the tug was reconnected and the movement accomplished. The intensity of the fumes increased and as the aircraft came to a halt on the stand an emergency evacuation was ordered.

Landing Gear Overheat

On 16 April 2012, a Virgin Atlantic A330-300 made an air turnback to London Gatwick after repetitive hold smoke detector warnings began to occur during the climb. Continuing uncertainty about whether the warnings, which continued after landing, were false led to the decision to order an emergency evacuation on the runway. Subsequent investigation found that the smoke warnings had all been false and had mainly come from one faulty detector. It also found that aspects of the way the evacuation had taken place had indicated where there were opportunities to try and improve passenger behaviour.

On 10 October 2006, a BAE Systems 146-200 being operated by Danish airline Atlantic Airways on a passenger flight from Sola to Stord overran the end of runway 33 at destination at a slow speed in normal visibility at dawn (but just prior to the accepted definition of daylight) before plunging down a steep slope sustaining severe damage and catching fire immediately it had come to rest. The rapid spread of the fire and difficulties in evacuation resulted in the death of four of the 16 occupants and serious injury to six others. The aircraft was completely destroyed.

On 9 January 2006, a Mc Donnell Douglas MD83 being operated by Spanair on a scheduled passenger flight from Bilbao to Barcelona made an unstablised day VMC approach to a dry runway 07R at destination and landed long with apparently locked brakes before coming to a stop 140 metres from the end of the 2660 metre long runway. Following ATC reports of a fire in the area of the left main landing gear, an evacuation was ordered using the right side doors during which five of the 96 occupants received minor injuries. The RFFS arrived at the scene during the evacuation and extinguished the fire. Significant damage occurred to both main landing gear assembles and to both wings and the tail assembly but there was no damage to the primary structure.

On 1 March 2005, a Boeing 777-200 being operated by Pakistan International Airlines on a scheduled passenger flight from Lahore to Manchester experienced a landing gear fire during taxi in at destination after an apparently routine landing in normal day visibility. There were no flight deck indications of a significant fire but an emergency evacuation was recommended by attending Fire Crew and carried out. Thirty one of the 344 occupants sustained minor injuries during this evacuation and the rest were uninjured. Five firefighters also sustained minor injuries as they assisted passengers from the slides. Damage to the aircraft was minor.

On 24 August 1999, a Boeing 767-300 being operated by SAS on a scheduled passenger flight from Copenhagen to Tokyo was unable to get airborne from the take off roll on Runway 22R in normal daylight visibility and made a rejected take off from high speed. The aircraft was taxied clear of the runway and after a precautionary attendance of the RFFS because of overheated brakes, the passengers were disembarked and transported to the terminal. There was minor damage to the aircraft landing gear and rear fuselage.

Post Crash Fire

On 5 August 2019, a Cessa 560XLS touched down in runway undershot at Aarhus whilst making a night ILS approach there and damage sustained when it collided with parts of the ILS LOC antenna caused a fuel leak which after injury-free evacuation of the occupants then ignited destroying most of the aircraft. The Investigation attributed the accident to the Captain’s decision to intentionally fly below the ILS glideslope in order to touch down at the threshold and to the disabling of the EGWPS alerting function in the presence of a steep authority gradient, procedural non-compliance and poor CRM.

On 7 December 2016, the crew of an ATR 42-500 lost control after airworthiness-related complications followed shutdown of the left engine whilst in the cruise and high speed terrain impact followed. The Investigation concluded that three pre-existing faults with the left engine and its propeller control mechanism had led to a loss of power which had necessitated its shutdown but that these faults had then caused much higher left side drag than would normally result from an engine shutdown and made it progressively more difficult to maintain control. Recovery from a first loss of control was followed by another without recovery.

On 11 March 2018 an Unreliable Speed Alert occurred on a Bombardier Challenger, the Captain’s airspeed increasing whilst the First Officer’s decreased. The First Officer attempted to commence the corresponding drill but the Captain’s interruptions prevented this and a (false) overspeed warning followed. The Captain’s response to both alerts was to reduce thrust which led to a Stall Warning followed, after no response, by stick pusher activation which was repeatedly opposed by the Captain despite calls to stop from the First Officer. The stalled condition continued for almost five minutes until a 30,000 feet descent was terminated by terrain impact.

On 22 July 2011 an Air France A340-300 en route over the North Atlantic at FL350 in night IMC encountered moderate turbulence following "inappropriate use of the weather radar" which led to an overspeed annunciation followed by the aircraft abruptly pitching up and gaining over 3000 feet in less than a minute before control was regained and it was returned to the cleared level. The Investigation concluded that "the incident was due to inadequate monitoring of the flight parameters, which led to the failure to notice AP disengagement and the level bust, following a reflex action on the controls.”

On 17 July 2007, the commander of a TAM Airlines Airbus A320 being operated with one thrust reverser locked out was unable to stop the aircraft leaving the landing runway at Congonhas at speed and it hit buildings and was destroyed by the impact and fire which followed killing all on board and others on the ground. The investigation attributed the accident to pilot failure to realise that the thrust lever of the engine with the locked out reverser was above idle, which by design then prevented both the deployment of ground spoilers and the activation of the pre-selected autobrake.

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