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Fire scare blamed for jet's air drama.

An oxygen mask pouch which fell on to wiring has been blamed as the likely cause for an air drama in which a Birmingham-bound flight had to make an emergency landing.

The Maersk corrAir BAC 111 with 87 people on board was just 25 minutes into its flight from Belfast when the pilot put out a Mayday call.

Extra fire crews and paramedics were put on stand-by at Liverpool's Spekecorr Airport but the aircraft, registration G AWYS, landed safely and no one was hurt.

The plane was packed with passengers who were returning from Northern Ireland after the Christmas holiday and the airline launched an immediate inquiry.

Yesterday, the results of an official Air Accident Investigation Branch report into the drama were published.

During the flight members of the crew heard what was described as a series of "popping" noises and saw smoke coming from a hat rack stowage area at the rear of the captain's seat.

A "red glow" was then spotted underneath a shelf where the pilots' smoke hoods were stored and a fire extinguisher was used to put it out.

The captain put out an emergency call before he and the flight crew donned oxygen masks.

Fire and smoke drills were carried out by the crew and the plane diverted to Liverpool where a safe landing was made.

Firemen later recovered the small oxygen mask pouch which appeared to have fallen through a one-inch gap and landed behind an electrical relay panel which had started to smoke.

The report said it seemed probable the pouch had acted as a "thermal insulation blanket" which had heated up the wiring and caused the smoke.

Maersk Air spokeswoman Miss Roseanne Crosseycorr said the company's aircraft had been modified to avoid a repeat of the scare.

"Our engineers assisted the investigation to see what the cause was and we actually pre-empted the report.

"The area that was open which allowed the oxygen mask pouch to fall down has now been filled in so nothing can fall behind it," said Miss Crossey.

The new design has now been included on all three of the BAC 111's operated by Maersk Air.

Miss Crossey said "some correspondence" had been received from passengers who had been on board the re-routed plane but she declined to say how many, if any, were seeking compensation.

"Each individual case would be dealt with on a individual basis," she said. "We know people were inconvenienced, but in a situation like this we have to err on the side of caution. We have to be safe."

Miss Crossey praised the conduct of the pilot and the cabin crew and said the passengers were never in any danger.

"In this situation the crew handled it very well and no further damage was done."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 17, 1998
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