Both runways were closed at Heathrow airport after a British Airways plane was forced to make an emergency landing.

The Airbus A319, which was carrying 75 passengers on its journey to Oslo, was forced to return to the airport moments after taking off because of a ‘technical fault’, British Airways has said.

Dramatic footage from the scene shows smoke billowing from the plane while it is still in the air and eyewitness have described hearing ‘a blowout’ and seeing one of the engines on fire as it flew overhead.

Speculation has emerged that the plane had run into a ‘bird strike’, although there has been no official confirmation of this.

Emergency services attended to the aircraft following the emergency landing

Emergency services attended to the aircraft following the emergency landing

A Heathrow spokesman said all of the passengers have been ‘safely evacuated’ and ‘accounted for’.

The spokesman said the airport itself remained open throughout the incident. The plane has now been towed away for investigations and both runways have reopened.

Officials have ruled out a terror attack and investigators are now looking into the possibility of a bird strike shortly after take-off.

Emergency vehicles surrounded the plane and emergency chutes could be seen being deployed after it landed.

Eye witness Clive Cook, who lives on the Heathrow flight path, described seeing smoke billowing from the plane, with the right engine on fire.

He told Sky News: ‘The actual engine itself was on fire.

A picture which is thought to come from inside the aircraft and shows one of the plane’s engines

 
 
Eyewitnesses have described hearing 'a blowout' and seeing one of the engines on fire while it was in the air

Eyewitnesses have described hearing ‘a blowout’ and seeing one of the engines on fire while it was in the air

‘This plane was coming over and suddenly the tone of the engine changed dramatically, and I could almost say it sounded as if it was like a blowout, or an explosion.

‘I’m absolutely certain that as it came through the clouds, and I looked up… the right engine was on fire, it wasn’t smoking, it was actually on fire.’

Mr Cook said he saw the plane over the Thames at Battersea as he was taking his daughter to nursery.

Another eyewitness, named only as Jamie, was working in his garden near to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea, when he saw the plane.

He told Sky News: ‘All of a sudden we heard this almighty noise. It was like a fire jet going over. We could just see the right engine on fire – it was absolutely horrendous to see.

‘You don’t see things like that every day, it’s incredible really.

 
 
The starboard wing appears to be charged after the plane made the emergency landing at Heathrow

The starboard wing appears to be charged after the plane made the emergency landing at Heathrow.

‘Your thoughts are with the people – if we could hear it that badly then what were the people going through on that plane?’

He said he thought the plane was just a few thousand feet above the ground and added: ‘It was below the clouds at this stage. To see an aircraft on fire – it wasn’t good to watch.’

The plane is thought to have circled the Greater London area before it made the emergency landing, according to Sky News.

Another witness, named only as Aiden, said he was driving to Heathrow and had to ‘hit the brakes’ as he was worried debris might fall from the plane.

He told LBC 97.3’s Nick Ferrari: ‘I thought to myself it was just the swirl of the wingtips and then I thought it was just too much for one side and I realised it was smoke.

‘The plane’s coming right over the top of my head and I’ve had to brake because when I saw the right-hand starboard engine, it’s just all blackened … I didn’t know if anything was going to fall off it.

‘I’ve had to hit the brakes to make sure we don’t coincide.’

A British Airways spokesman said a ‘full investigation’ had begun into the incident.

The spokesman said: ‘Customers and crew onboard a British Airways aircraft that returned to Heathrow this morning are safe and well after being evacuated from the aircraft.

‘Flight BA762 departed Heathrow at 8.16am and returned to Heathrow at 8.43am due to an engine technical fault. The plane had been due to fly to Oslo and had been carrying 75 passengers, British Airways has said

The plane had been due to fly to Oslo and had been carrying 75 passengers, British Airways has said

‘The Airbus A319 aircraft was carrying 75 customers and five crew.

‘The aircraft landed safely and cabin crew evacuated customers using emergency slides.  Airline colleagues are now caring for customers in the airport terminal.

‘There is likely to be disruption to other flights today into and out of Heathrow.  Customers are advised to check ba.com for information about their flights before departing for the airport.

‘The airline has begun a full investigation into the incident and is working with the Air Accident Investigation Bureau to establish the cause.’

London Fire Brigade said a crew from Heathrow fire station had assisted the airport’s fire service with ‘an aircraft fire’.

‘We believe the fire is now out,’ it added.

The plane was on Heathrow’s northern runway which remained shut until it was towed away.

Bird strikes are a serious problem for aircraft and have been known to bring planes down.

Passengers on resumed flights at Heathrow were being warned to expect delays of 30-60 minutes as well as 30 minutes of aircraft taxiing time.

 
Passengers at Heathrow have been warned to expect delays of 30 to 60 minutes following the emergency landing

Passengers at Heathrow have been warned to expect delays of 30 to 60 minutes following the emergency landing

 

 
 
 

The incident is being investigated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

Captain Mark Searle, chairman of airline pilots’ association Balpa, said: ‘This was a professional job done by professional people. As pilots we spend our whole career training to manage incidents such as this in order to avoid an incident becoming a disaster.

‘Balpa representatives will be assisting the pilots involved in this incident and providing whatever support they need. And, as always, we will all learn whatever lessons we can.’

 

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