The nosewheel of a British Airways passenger jet collapsed with a loud bang as it landed on Friday at London City Airport, sending the plane scraping across the tarmac with 71 people aboard, officials and witnesses said. All aboard escaped by emergency slides, but one person was taken to a hospital with a minor injury.
BA Flight 8456 was flying from Amsterdam to London when its front landing gear failed and the front wheel fell off.
“As a precaution the emergency slides were deployed and passengers were evacuated down the slides onto the runway,” the airline said in a statement. “One passenger suffered a minor injury.”
The airline said the Avro 146 RJ100 — made by BAE Systems — was carrying 67 passengers and four crew. London firefighters said the plane crashed onto the runway around 8pm and ambulance officials reported that four people were treated for minor injuries.
“The front wheel collapsed, the cabin filled with smoke and everyone had to vacate from the rear of the plane. People were pretty calm at first but when the plane started to fill up with smoke, people were not moving fast enough and they got pretty fractious,” said Ray Hamblin, one of the passengers. “As I came off the emergency slide I hit my wrist on the runway. I think there are a couple of people with cuts and scrapes.”
Justin Fletcher told the British Broadcasting Corp that “there was obviously quite a loud bang as the plane scratched in. The stewards and stewardesses were quick to evacuate everyone off. There was a few scrapes and cuts due to hitting the asphalt. All in all everyone seems to be doing quite well now.”
A City Airport spokeswoman said the passengers were brought into the airport after the accident for treatment, and were served food and drinks by airport staff.
The airport’s only runway was closed after the incident and 11 flights were diverted to other airports in southeast England.
The government sent three investigators to the scene. The plane remained on the runway on Friday evening, surrounded by fire trucks and maintenance crews. Police officers also arrived to get witness statements from passengers.
London City Airport, in the eastern part of the British capital, is mainly used for domestic and European flights. It handles around 80,000 flights a year, with just over 3 million passengers. The airport is surrounded by water and aviation experts say pilots often experience difficult landings on the runway.
The plane that crashed at City Airport is modeled on the British Aerospace 146 — a medium-sized plane with four engines that was good at landing on poor quality runways. It had been designed for possible use in Africa but was used mainly at City Airport when it opened in 1987.
City Airport had to close for an hour earlier this month when the front wheel on a similar aircraft bent out of shape. No passengers on that flight were evacuated.