A video has surfaced of a Boeing 737 engine catching fire as it taxied for take-off, prompting three passengers to evacuate the plane. The video was from a UTair flight preparing to leave Moscow’s oldest airport – Vnukovo (VKO). The plane was headed to Makhachkala (MCX), a Russian city to the south, close to the border with Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Below is the video from a passenger:
A “regular situation”?
Passengers alerted the crew to what they saw out the window. A flight attendant used the intercom to ask passengers to refer to their safety cards. All of this happened while flames continued to spew out from the engine. Without instruction from any flight crew, three passengers decided to take action. They reacted by opening the overwing emergency exit door and climbing out onto the wing on the opposite side.
A flight attendant was eventually able to convince the three passengers to come back inside. This crew member insisted that the flames were “normal” and there was nothing to be concerned about. Passengers were subsequently transferred onto a different plane and the flight eventually made it’s departure for Makhachkala.
Later, an UTair spokesperson conducted a radio interview and reassured the media and the public that passengers were never in danger and that this was an ordinary situation:
The situation is regular, the plane is fully operational, nothing threatened the passengers.
The airline representative also said the flames were a result of “disrupted airflow” as the engine was started up.
UTair has had a few incidents in in the past; the most recent accident took place last September when a 737-800 overran the runway in Sochi. It subsequently caught fire and injured 18 people.
The airline was first established in 1991 as Tyumenaviatrans Aviation (TAT). UTair assumed its current name in 2003. The airline is Russian and operates scheduled domestic and international passenger services to over 50 destinations. Destinations are mainly in Russia but also include cities in the Baltics and many in Central Asia. It also operates scheduled helicopter services and charter flights with fixed-wing aircraft. Additionally, the company offers flights in support of the oil and gas industry across western Siberia.
The fleet consists of 74 fixed-wing aircraft and hundreds of helicopters of various sizes. The largest plane in the fleet is the 767-200 while the smallest is a 12-passenger An-2.
Though unrelated, the incident comes at a time when air traveler anxiety is heightened in the wake of the two 737 MAX incidents causing the death of a combined 346 passengers aboard the two planes.
The reaction by these passengers seems fairly reasonable and rational. After all, it’s not everyday you see flames spewing from an airplane engine. Although we would love to trust the crew and the airline’s spokesperson, all signs are pointing to “no, it’s not normal”.
If you saw flames spewing from the airplane’s engine and were told to do nothing, what would you do? Would you evacuate anyway or sit still and follow instructions?