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CLOSE CALL AS ENGINES FAIL ON JET; Cargo plane plunges towards Irish village.

Byline: DARREN BOYLE

A CARGO jet loaded with 68 tonnes of fuel plunged 1,500ft towards a small village after ice knocked out two of its four engines, a shock report has revealed.

The 40-year-old DC8 lost the use of one engine and developed problems in a second shortly after taking off from Shannon last year.

The aircraft passed through a thin layer of cloud at 900ft - seconds before lumps of ice built up on the jet as it attempted to gain altitude and speed.

The aircraft was flying over Askeaton, Co Limerick, when ice disrupted air flow into one of the engines, forcing the pilot to shut it down.

Seconds later, a compressor in a second engine stalled - forcing the pilot to declare an emergency.

People on the ground heard a series of "loud bangs" and spotted flames shooting from the aircraft's engine.

As this happened, the jet was pulled violently to one side and the pilot was forced to rapidly lose altitude to keep the aircraft above its stall-speed.

On the ground, Air Traffic Controllers were alerted to the emergency after a Minimum Safe Altitude Warning alarm sounded.

According to the Air Accident Investigation Unit report, Air Traffic Controllers were not informed of the reason for the sudden descent because the flight crew were trying to regain control of the aircraft.

An AIUU spokesman said: "Although local residents may also have been concerned due to the loud bangs and flames seen coming from the aircraft the minimum altitude recorded during the occurrence was 1,100 ft." Luckily, the pilots were able to switch on a special anti-icing device in time.

The aircraft was due to fly to Qatar, loaded with almost 16 tonnes of clothing and personal belongings on March 28, 2008, at 10.40pm.

At the time of the flight, the temperature was just 6C and no icing problems were expected.

The AAIU said the aircraft was fitted with an anti-icing system which diverts hot air from the back of the engine to the front.

"Use of engine anti-icing system results in significant power loss from this engine and has an adverse effect on the maximum weight at which the aircraft can take off due to a reduction in climb thrust. Consequently, engine anti-ice is only used operationally when needed."

The AAUI praised the Air Traffic Controllers at Shannon for their quick thinking. As soon as they knew the aircraft was losing altitude they steered it over the River Shannon, to avoid hills and built-up areas.

The pilots used this time to restart the engine and were able to make a normal landing at Shannon.

The investigators said the pilot should have switched on the anti-icing system before flying through the clouds at 900ft - even though weather reports said no icing would occur below 2,000ft.

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Ice hazard... DC8 fell 1500 feet
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 19, 2009
Words:477
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