American Airlines flight AA383 from Chicago to Miami caught fire yesterday as it was preparing for takeoff.
The Boeing 767-300 had 161 passengers and 9 crew onboard at around 2:50pm Central time and was heading down runway 28R. The crew rejected takeoff, and stopped on the runway, reporting a fire coming from the right wing. Here’s detail on the incident from The Aviation Herald
The crew evacuated the aircraft. A handful of injuries were reported. The aircraft’s fuselage actually melted from fire near the wing.
Apparently the FAA reports that plane blew a tire. Presumably pieces of tire affected the engine. We’ll eventually learn whether the tire itself had an issue, or perhaps if there was debris on the runway. (Update: The FAA has backed off the explanation that this began with a blown tire, and American reports engine failure.)
A passenger videotaped their evacuation.
- Air traffic control does a phenomenal job, understanding the situation, dispatching emergency vehicles, and remaining calm. They stop traffic efficiently and get things running again smoothly too. I flew out of Chicago O’Hare yesterday afternoon and my 4:50pm departure wasn’t even delayed (indeed, the inbound aircraft wasn’t delayed either). Find audio here.
- It appears, and I’ve heard some discussion about, the left rear slide being blown around by exhaust prior to straightening out. If the slide had become detached or damaged that could have caused real problems for evacuation. Thankfully it didn’t.
- Whenever there’s an incident, passengers leave with carry on bags even though they aren’t supposed to. You don’t want to slow down evacuation. People could die.
- It’s really impressive how few people took things on their way out of this plane. You can see from passenger video how relatively few overhead bins were open. But you aren’t going to stop it entirely. It’s easy to mock and shame passengers, but I don’t feel like anyone who hasn’t been through an emergency like this really has standing to call anyone out individually. It’s hard to know how you’ll react in such a situation.
- Evacuations are always done by people and as democratic an experience as flying is these days (including up front) you’re going to have a huge variance in behavior.
- John Walton thinks overhead bins should be locked in these sorts of situations. I’m not sure that would help, and might make things worse as invariably some passengers won’t understand this and will remain in the aisles trying to get the bins open.
- Passengers take their belongings expecting that if they don’t, they may not get them back or at least won’t for a long time. Obviously personal items could be destroyed in a fire. In some cases all items will be needed for investigation (if the cause or source of an incident is unclear) but assuming that the items remain intact and aren’t absolutely necessary for investigators there should be a credible commitment to reunite passengers with belongings right away. In other words, take away the felt need of passengers to delay evacuation by grabbing personal items.