back to article Singapore Airlines 777 catches fire after engine alarm

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 241 passengers and crew has caught fire at Changi Airport, but everybody was evacuated safely. The 777-300ER had left for Milan when an engine oil warning forced it to turn around. It touched down shortly before 7am local time, and while on the runway, the fire started. Emergency crews …

  1. AndyS

    Wow.

    Glad everyone's OK. Alarming to see what looks like a fuel fire almost engulfing the wing - guess we'll have to wait a while to see what caused it.

    1. Tom 64

      Re: Wow.

      Pretty sure that isn't all of the fuel, or the flambe would be much larger!

      I'm guessing the pilots dumped most of the fuel before landing again

      1. Lars
        Coat

        Re: Wow.

        "I'm guessing the pilots dumped most of the fuel before landing again".

        Not sure if the 777 has a fuel dumping system and too lazy to find out, also it could be optional.

        Quoting the Wiki:

        "Many movies and TV news stories mistakenly assume that all aircraft can dump fuel, when in fact most cannot.".

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_dumping

        But I would suppose something more might have gone wrong as it should be possible to put out an engine fire.

        And please Brits and Americans, grow up. Both RR and PW produce fine engines, and both fail, now and then.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They did well to keep everyone calm and not deploy the slides!

    Compare with the AA A330 that was parked at the gate at Heathrow this weekend and evacuated via the slides...

    1. AndyS

      Re: They did well to keep everyone calm and not deploy the slides!

      I hadn't heard about the AA one, but just read a few reports - why do you have the impression the evacuation was mishandled? If there is smoke in the cabin, and an evacuation is ordered, why would you not want the slides to be used? Even if it later turns out that there was not a serious issue, that probably isn't obvious to the crew and passengers, whose priority is to get everyone off and away from the plane as quickly as possible.

      I'm actually quite surprised the slides weren't used in this 777 evacuation - I wonder why not? Maybe the fire didn't start (or wasn't visible) until after the steps were already in place?

      When things go seriously wrong, every second lost in the early part of an evacuation can cost lives in the later parts of it, and slides have the ability to get a lot of people out of a plane very quickly, much more quickly than steps.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: They did well to keep everyone calm and not deploy the slides!

        Indeed. They could well have had a riot on their hands.

        I'm generally well-behaved and follow the cabin crew instructions, but if I was being kept inside a metal box that was on fire, I really doubt that I'd be able to site there calmly.

        In a scale from '1' to 'Corporal Jones', I'd be way off the right-hand-side of the graph.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: They did well to keep everyone calm and not deploy the slides!

        " why would you not want the slides to be used? "

        Because evacuation via slides virtually guarantees several broken legs and a couple of more serious injuries.

        It's a last resort, not something you do for smoke (which probably came in via the pressurisation system picking up fumes from an oil leak in the turbine compressors.)

    2. cd27idw

      Re: They did well to keep everyone calm and not deploy the slides!

      The a330 case was apparently what's colloquially known in the west of Scotland as a "reekie lum", or less prosaicly as apu exhaust needing de-coked. Can be diconserting if you're onboard when it happens, as it was when it happened to me on a flybe dash8 a few years ago. Looking out the window,while wondering why things were taking so long, realised we had number of fire tenders parked at our rear. Swift evacuation, and a four hour delay waiting for new aircraft and crew followed, but no real worries.

    3. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Slides vs Stairs

      Airlines prefer to avoid slides if at all possible for a couple reasons:

      1) The slide may not inflate fully which may cause some pretty rough landings for the passengers (Head and back injuries are very common)

      2) heat from a fire can cause the gasses inside the slide to expand rapidly and possibly cause a catastrophic rupture. In some cases the slide may actually catch fire (It is rubber after all)

      3) Its much faster to disembark via stairs than a slide. A dozen passengers can go down a set of stairs simultaneously while slides are one-at-a-time affairs where the next passenger in line has to wait for the previous passenger to slide down completely, stand up, and clear the landing area before they can begin.

      4) some passengers cannot take the slide; physically infirm and elderly passengers are much easier to escort down by using the handrails.

      5) Even if everything goes right, your arse will still be black and blue for a couple days afterwards (60-degree angle down onto the tarmac isn't exactly easy on the old fleshy seat cushion)

      6) Stairs allow for fire crews and rescuers to get into the aircraft where the slide is just one way.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Slides vs Stairs

        COG "3) Its much faster to disembark via stairs than a slide."

        Aircraft certification typically requires the evacuation slides to enable complete emptying of the entire fully loaded aircraft in 90 seconds. They run tests of this during certification testing.

        This rate is simply not achievable with the stairs. It probably takes minutes just to deploy the stairs, assuming the power is still on.

        In other words, I believe that your statement (quoted) is clearly completely incorrect,

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Slides vs Stairs

          "Aircraft certification typically requires the evacuation slides to enable complete emptying of the entire fully loaded aircraft in 90 seconds. They run tests of this during certification testing."

          That assumes all slides are operable. I've never heard of a slide system where ONE slide can evacuate 300 people in a minute and a half. No way. With an engine fire, half the slides are verboten, plus they're on the ground already with stairs en route.

  3. tony2heads
    WTF?

    camera phones

    Why would anybody sitting in a burning aircraft take the time to photograph the burning engine?

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: camera phones

      I guess there's little else to do whilst you wait for the bods up front to take it to the fire service.

      "It's not like you can lean out the window and waft it with your cap" - David Gunson.

    2. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: camera phones

      Why would anybody sitting in a burning aircraft take the time to photograph the burning engine?

      Singaporeans.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: camera phones

        "Singaporeans"

        Yes, I have no idea where they learned the stiff upper lip thing but since it's also known as sang froid I suppose it was from the French.

    3. Richard Jones 1
      Stop

      Re: camera phones

      It was not clear why they did not deploy the slides, everyone was held on board while the emergency crews were scrambled and foam was deployed to kill the fire.

      I can only guess the authorities did not want a repeat of another situation when passengers were evacuated via slides only to mill round, or worse lie on the grass and get killed or injured by the emergency vehicles rushing across the grass and hard surfaces..

      The jet at Heathrow was close to the terminal in daylight, I guess its risk profile was different.

    4. AdamT

      Re: camera phones

      in some situations it is deemed safer to remain on the plane. Most extreme example of this being Qantas 32 (the A380 that lost an engine eplosively). I think the passengers sat on the plane for 3 hours whilst one of the other engines was put out. Obviously they were ready to evacuate the whole time but the pilot's view was that the outside contained a burning engine, hot brakes and a major fuel leak, and until that situation changed, inside was safer.

      1. Sir Lancelot

        Re: camera phones

        The Qantas Flight 32 Airbus did not have an engine fire. The Qantas crew was correct not to evacuate because of the hot brakes (they landed fast because of degraded flap functionality), the fuel leaks and the inability to shut down engine 1.

        In the SA scenario people were not evacuated of a plane with an engine and a wing on fire. That wing carries a lot of fuel on a 777 ER (extended range). My guess is that SIA crew will have a bit of explaining to do as to why they did not immediately evacuate via the left side exits. The crew and passengers were very lucky to escape as they did!

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: camera phones

          "That wing carries a lot of fuel on a 777 ER (extended range)."

          Most of which probably got DUMPED due to MTOW > MLW. AND the hot brakes AND the left-side engines still winding down. Plus since they called a pan-pan, crews were already en route.

    5. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: camera phones

      Why would anybody sitting in a burning aircraft take the time to photograph the burning engine?

      Ridiculous...don't they know how dangerous it is to use a mobile phone onboard an aircraft?

    6. fajensen Silver badge

      Re: camera phones

      In that sithuation, I'd want to finihs my drink too!

      1. Steve Hill

        Re: camera phones

        Gins to manual!

  4. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    IT Angle

    The second video taken from across the airfield

    Aaaarrggghh! - not the sound of anyone burning in the fire, thank the Lord, but just bloody hold the phone sideways.

    IT angle: phone software should have a mode whereby it always films landscape regardless of which way up the phone is held.

    1. Darryl

      Re: The second video taken from across the airfield

      Phone software should have a mode whereby it delivers electric shocks to users who try to film vertically

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "five have been lost"

    Interesting tidbit, but then you explain only three. So what happened to the other two ? Are they so lost we don't know how they were lost ?

    1. andy 28

      Re: "five have been lost"

      'only 5 have been lost' - like that's a good thing?

      1. AndyS

        Re: like that's a good thing?

        Yes, that's a good thing. How many Ford Mondeos do you think have been lost in the last decade? Would that make you scared getting into one?

        If you actually look at why they were lost, one disappeared (cause unknown), one was shot down, one was landed like a dead duck. So that leaves 2 which actually had a failure leading to a loss, and neither of them had a single injury (one landed short at Heathrow, the other had a fire while on the ground).

        This, and the other engine failure/fire one in May this year, will probably be added to that total, but again, both were evacuated with no injuries.

        Considering there are nearly 1,500 in service, and they've been flying for well over 20 years, that's a remarkable safety record.

        1. MrXavia

          Re: like that's a good thing?

          "How many Ford Mondeos do you think have been lost in the last decade? Would that make you scared getting into one?"

          I would be scared getting into a Ford Mondeo.....

          But for the 777, my question is what engines were they using? and why was there a failure?

          Watched an interesting program on flying the other night, and it showed Rolls Royces engine monitoring center... they monitor EVERY engine they have flying globally, in real time! what a system! Makes me feel safer to be flying an airline that uses Rolls Royce.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: like that's a good thing?

            "it showed Rolls Royces engine monitoring center... they monitor EVERY engine they have flying globally, in real time! "

            Links etc welcome. It's a story which is heard surprisingly frequently, and yet afaik, after two decades working in and around RR engine system designers (and those who investigate when things go wrong), they really don't, not in what most people would call realtime. Apart from anything else, even if the engine systems design supported realtime telemetry, the comms isn't there in too many parts of the world. Well, not at a price people have been willing to pay, anyway.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: like that's a good thing?

              Links etc welcome

              City in the Sky, episode 3, Arrival about 30 minutes in.

              I'd imagine that the reporting isn't necessarily "real time", given the number of engines in flight, but could be close enough to real time to be useful. After all, even if it's only a few dozen bytes of data every minute or so, you could get some very useful information from that. Quite what the communication system is I don't know, but given that aircraft these days seem almost always to be fitted with satellite communications, and of course there's the ACARS system running constantly, it should be doable.

              Also interesting to note that their monitoring system seems to be running on Excel ;-)

              M.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: like that's a good thing?

                Thanks for the link.

                " of course there's the ACARS system running constantly, it should be doable.."

                What's doable and seems sensible to you and me isn't always done, often for commercial reasons.

                For a lot of purposes, a handful of times per flight (e.g. pre takeoff, start cruise, start descent, post landing) is close enough to 'real time', and conveniently those points tend to coincide with locations where relatively inexpensive data connectivity is readily available.

                Where data connectivity isn't so cheap/easy, ACARS operates in a "store and forward" mode; messages will be forwarded next time coverage is available (conceptually similar to the way the SMS system works).

                RR/BBC do seem to make the 'real time' claim on the scale of minutes if not seconds in the video. I've been close enough to the sharp end to know that, at least before MH370, it wasn't like that on all modern RR engines on all airlines. Not by a long way.

                Interested readers might find this September 2015 article (a year and a half after MH370 vanished) at least as enlightening as the RR PR segment:

                https://next.ft.com/content/c3dd7614-57d6-11e5-9846-de406ccb37f2

                "[...]

                Following MH370’s disappearance, Inmarsat offered to provide a basic satellite-tracking service to airlines at no extra cost.

                More than 90 per cent of the world’s long-haul airliners are fitted with equipment that can automatically send data over the Inmarsat network, but many airlines have not paid to have it activated, including Malaysia Airlines at the time of MH370’s disappearance.

                The International Civil Aviation Organisation, the UN agency that sets global aviation standards, proposed in February [2015] that from 2016 all commercial airliners flying over oceans must transmit data about their speed, height and direction every 15 minutes when they are out of range of ground-based radar.

                [...]"

                Not immediately obvious what's happened in the months since Sept 2015, except RR have made thousands of experienced engineers redundant:

                http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34907961

                "interesting to note that their monitoring system seems to be running on Excel"

                Almost everything in RR runs on Excel. What could possibly go wrong?

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: like that's a good thing?

            and why was there a failure?

            They said they had an oil pressure problem... now my question is, why didn't they shut that engine down? I'm guessing there was a bearing failure pretty soon after oil pressure loss.

            When I was in the military, oil pressure drop called for shutdown if possible (multi-engine... single-engines were to set down ASAP).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Pirate

              GE doing a Chrysler?

              Not another GE90 failure is it? Wasn't the BA flight from Vegas with the exploding engine also a 777ER?.. same design engines?

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: GE doing a Chrysler?

                GE90-115B according to this: http://www.afr.com/news/world/asia/engine-catches-fire-on-singapore-air-flight-to-milan-20160627-gpswyq

      2. Kumar2012

        Re: "five have been lost"

        @andy 'only 5 have been lost' - like that's a good thing? --- yes actually that is a very good thing, 5 out of 1401 built, and of those 5 three were not even the plane's fault (MH, Asiana) and this one too may come down to a maintenance issue with the engine rather than the plane.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: "five have been lost"

      Sometimes, Wikipedia is good. As of October 2015, the 777 has been in 14 aviation accidents and incidents,[215] including four hull-loss accidents, one hull-loss due to criminal act, and three hijackings, for a total of 540 fatalities

      There's more details in the article. Considering it's been flying for 20 years, not too bad of a record, all things considered.

      1. Def Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: "five have been lost"

        Sometimes, Wikipedia is good.

        Clearly not good enough for you to include a link... ;)

    3. Tom Womack

      Re: "five have been lost"

      One's MH370, to which your comment regrettably applies, and the last one is Asiana Airlines 214, which was landed so incompetently at San Francisco that three people died and the plane was destroyed by fire.

      I hadn't realised that BA38 (the short-landing at Heathrow caused by ice in the heat-exchanger) had written off the aircraft.

  6. Steven Jones

    A close call?

    First panicky thought from any of the engine manufacturers is probably "I hope it isn't one of ours"... In this case it seems to be a GE engine.

    I should add that there's surely a question is to why, 2 hours into a flight from Singapore to Milan, why did it return to base rather than divert to a closer airport following an engine warning. It's not as if it was over the middle of an ocean. Was the safest option chosen, or the one which would cause the least operational difficulties?

    I'm assuming that the fact the fire occurred on landing wasn't just a coincident but because the conditions were then more conducive to a fire starting. If it was the former, then they were luck indeed.

    1. Richard Jones 1
      Happy

      Re: A close call?

      I can only suggest that airflow at 300 plus MPH kept the fire and heat away from anything too vital. Returning to base also burned off and/or dumped fuel to make a landing easier. I do not know the facilities at other fields but perhaps the problem appeared more minor and the facilities at Changi were judged better.

      Smiling face because everyone survived. I not sure about their luggage.

    2. AndyS

      Re: A close call?

      Presumably there was no indication of a fire to the cockpit, and the standard procedure for the errors they had was to return to the home airport. The failure then "evolved", but planes routinely do return to their home airport for failures which fall between "carry on" and "crap, get me down" in severity.

      Obviously if the situation had worsened while it was still in the air, it would have diverted to somewhere closer.

      Also the closest airport isn't always the one you want to be at - there was an engine fire on a FlyBE plane on long finals to Belfast City airport in late 2014 and, after extinguishing the fire, it diverted to the (further away) Belfast International, as the fire and evacuation facilities there are much better, and it's not in the middle of a city. I imagine overflying a city centre with a plane which has just been, and in fact still was, on fire, might not be good for the nerves of the pilots!

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: A close call?

        there was an engine fire on a FlyBE plane

        Since we seem to be into links; AAIB Monthly Bulletin, June 2016 (PDF, 1.9MB). It's the first report.

        Fascinating, detailed explanation of what happened, why particular choices were made and what have been the consequences.

        M.

        1. AndyS

          Re: A close call?

          Martin, I should have given the link, yes - the most interesting aspect is the decision not to change to emergency radio frequency to reduce the pilots' workload, which led to an inability to communicate directly with the fire crew, which led to Chinese whispers leading the fire crew to believe there was a fire inside the cabin. So, they turned up in full haz-mat gear with axes at the ready, prepared for ingress into a burning aircraft.

          Unsurprisingly, from the news reports at the time, this spooked the passengers, making them think the situation was way more serious than it really was. Luckily it had no real adverse effect on the response, but it highlights very clearly how seemingly benign departures from pre-agreed procedures, even if done for the best of reasons, can have serious unintended consequences.

          Full disclosure: I did a work placement at the AAIB many moons ago, so read their reports like a true geek. I can highly recommend it - many of them are fascinating.

      2. Steven Jones

        Re: A close call?

        I can see why the plan would go to Belfast International and not City (I've flown into both) as the latter is cramped and has more limited facilities. However, in aviation terms those are virtually next door to one another. This was 2 hours flying, perhaps 1,500km.

        I can only think that they didn't know the severity of this.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: A close call?

          Probably not, given the plane didn't catch fire until AFTER touchdown. No fire, no emergency, only an urgency. The difference between "pan-pan" and "mayday".

  7. paulf Silver badge
    Coat

    Penny

    Do you know your check engine light is on?

    1. nichomach

      Re: Penny

      *covers check engine light with tape* - "There you go - fixed it!"

      1. AndyS

        Re: Penny

        There was a Nimrod crash where the cockpit crew were trouble-shooting a warning lamp. The manuals stated that the warning lamp, which showed the engine starter turbine running, was malfunctioning since the starter turbine could not run while the engine was already at speed. The correct procedure was to remove the indicator bulb. The crew were apparently doing that, as the wing was gently burning away...

        More here: http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19950516-0

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Penny

          I didn't think the Nimrod had bulbs? When they say an indicator oil-lamp they really do mean "oil lamp"

          The fleet may soon have to be grounded because of the non-availability of the whale oil needed for the cabin lighting.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Penny

            "The fleet may soon have to be grounded because of the non-availability of the whale oil needed for the cabin lighting."

            Just curious. Why does it specifically have to be whale oil? Why can't olive oil or petroleum be used in its place?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "suspected Russian missile"

    I don't think there is the slightest doubt that it was a Russian missile. The issue is how the rebels got hold of it, and from where. The Russians say it looks like it was Ukrainian stock, which would make sense. I don't think anybody is silly enough to think that a civilian plane was deliberately shot down; that would have benefited none of the sides involved.

    At least, unlike the shooting down by the US of the Iranian plane, the rebels haven't publicly promoted the person responsible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Russians say it looks like it was Ukrainian stock, which would make sense

      It indeed makes sense that the Russians would /claim/ the missile was Ukrainian sourced, but that is distinct from the missile actually /being/ Ukrainian sourced. Likewise you could swap the two around.

      .

  9. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge
    Pint

    well done to the flight crew and ground personnel

    I raise my glass to the flight crew and emergency personnel on the ground who performed as trained and handled the situation well, ensuring the safety of passengers. Bravo.

  10. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    Does anyone want ...

    a slightly used 777 which requires extensive cleaning?

    Going cheap.

  11. sidusnare

    Airliner engines

    One of the things I always notice being left out in media coverage of incidents like this, is that Boeing and Airbus do not make engines. They make the air-frame that in many of these cases saves the passengers from bad things happening to engines that people like GE and Rolls Royce make, especially fan failures that send shrapnel flying at incredible speed out of the engine and the cowling has to absorb that or very bad things happen.

    Not that GE and Rolls Royce make bad engines, they are great, GE does some real neat remote sensing and data analytics stuff. If your going to talk about bad thing have happened to X number of these things, then we should talk about how many of these brand of engines have burst into flames, not how many 777s have had problems.

    And the passengers shooting video and pictures is a good thing, if you can't GTFO yet, those images can be invaluable additional data points for investigators after the fact.

  12. DiViDeD Silver badge

    OK, pedant. But still.....

    "Emergency crews extinguished the fire, and the airline told Bloomberg they were disembarked via the stairs,"

    Who were? The emergency crew or Bloomberg? Or the airline?

  13. Me19713

    From Boeing AERO magazine:

    To comply with FAR 24.1001, the 747 and MD-11, for example, require a fuel jettison system. Some models, such as the 777 and some 767 airplanes have a fuel jettison system installed, but it is not required by FAR. Other models such as the DC-9, 717, 737, 757, and MD-80/90 do not require, or do not have, a fuel jettison system based on compliance with FAR Part 25.119 and 25.121(d).

    http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/articles/qtr_3_07/article_03_2.html

    1. cageordie

      Some aircraft can land at MTOW. MTOW for the 777-300LR is 775,000 pounds but max landing weight is 554,000 pounds, so they have to have a jetison system because stooging around for ten hours burning fuel down to the max landing weight is not a valid option. The 777 dumps fuel from both sides, the controls are in the overhead panel immediately above the fuel pump controls, you can enable the left and right dump separately, select the amount to remain and then arm the system at which point it dumps down to the required remaining amount.

  14. cageordie

    Serious questions to answer on this one.

    If he had an emergency caused by an fault then was that engine still running? The aircraft can fly very happily on one. Why didn't he evacuate? An aircraft can burn to the ground in minutes and they had a good chance of toasting everyone. They got lucky. You land with a fire, you get everyone off the plane. You don't sit and wait to see if the fuel tanks burn through before the fire crew controls the fire. It is not safer on the plane. There is nothing safe about a burning plane. The moment it stops you hit the parking brake, switch the engines off, yell "evacuate, evacuate, evacuate" to the cabin, secure the aircraft and leave.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Serious questions to answer on this one.

      You land with a fire, you get everyone off the plane. You don't sit and wait to see if the fuel tanks burn through before the fire crew controls the fire. It is not safer on the plane. There is nothing safe about a burning plane. The moment it stops you hit the parking brake, switch the engines off, yell "evacuate, evacuate, evacuate" to the cabin, secure the aircraft and leave.

      But the aircraft didn't land with a fire, the fire started during the rollout on the runway, so no preparations would have been made by the crew for emergency evacuation. Also, the engine on the non-fire side would have needed time to spool down before you could safely evacuate on that side.

      Also, if the crew had yelled "evacuate, evacuate, evacuate" to the cabin, then some idiot would probably have opened the door on the side where the fire was.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Serious questions to answer on this one.

        Since the plane only had an engine fault, not a fire, that only qualifies as an urgency, not an emergency. I think the initial incident only raised a "pan-pan" and they chose to return to the originating airport: sensible as the resources for correction would be greatest there. The fire only started AFTER landing, and since the disembarking stairs were already en route, they probably simply monitored the situation until either the stairs arrived (meaning everyone could get off quickly) or the situation deteriorated enough to warrant immediate evacuation.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was the pilot called by any chance

    Bang Ting Foon?

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