Thai AirAsia Airbus A320 Returns To Male With Engine Troubles

An engine failure aboard a Thai AirAsia Airbus A320 yesterday evening forced the aircraft return to the Maldivian capital Malé shortly after takeoff. Flight FD-178 was en route to Bangkok when bangs were heard and flames began to billow from one of the aircraft’s engines.

An AirAsia Airbus A320
Flames were spotted coming out of one of the aircraft’s engines. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

The Aviation Herald reported today on an engine incident aboard a Thai AirAsia flight from Malé International Airport in the Maldives, to Bangkok, Thailand. The aircraft in question was a 6.8-year-old ex-Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320, registered HS-BBT.

Passengers were met with a terrifying sight during the aircraft’s initial ascent, as a series of loud bangs were heard and flames began to streak from one of its engines. The crew stopped the ascent at just 5,000 feet, shut down the affected engine, and returned to Malé.

Around 22 minutes after initial departure, flight FD-178 landed safely back on runway 18, with no injuries to passengers or crew. The flight was subsequently canceled, passengers provided hotel accommodation in Malé, and then rebooked onto alternative flights the next day.

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In a statement, AirAsia’s Group Head of Safety, Captain Ling Liong Tien, said,

“Our pilots are well-trained to manage these types of incidents and while those on board may have heard a loud bang, there was never any immediate risk to guest safety.”

A Thai AirAsia Airbus A330
Engine fires are rarely catastrophic. Photo: Masakatsu Ukon via Flickr

Similar incidents

Whilst flaming engines are dramatic and no doubt terrifying if you are onboard a flight when one happens, they are usually harmless.

Rather than a catastrophic failure of the engine, a fire can be the result of a reasonably simple technical malfunction. Issues with engine fuel lines are a common cause of engine fires, but they’re a reasonably easy fix as long as the fire hasn’t caused more extensive damage to other components.

There have been a number of similar incidents over the past couple of months. The most recent came just two days ago when a TAP Air Portugal Airbus A320 experienced an engine explosion whilst accelerating down the runway. The incident was caught on camera, including the quick response of the airport firefighting team.

Back in July, a Swiss Airbus A220 had to divert to Paris after flames were spotted coming out of its left-hand engine.

While not a regular occurrence when you take into account the sheer number of flights around the world each day, passengers can rest assured that engine fires are not as terrifying as they look.

A Thai AirAsia Airbus A330
Fuel line issues are a common cause of engine fires. Photo: Masakatsu Ukon via Flickr

Other incidents at Malé

Malé airport in the Maldives was the site of another peculiar incident almost exactly a year ago, on 8th September 2018, this time involving an Airbus A320neo.

It involved an Air India Airbus A320neo landing on an unfinished runway at the airport. Although nobody was hurt, the aircraft suffered significant damage to its brakes and tires.

The report on the investigation into this incident was released a couple of days ago. It found that the pilots of the Air India aircraft failed to notice that they were landing on the unfinished runway, but it was not entirely their fault.

The runway was not properly marked as being still under construction and had not been annotated on the airport’s charts. If there’s one thing the unrelated incidents at Malé airport almost exactly a year apart show, it’s that accidents involving aircraft are usually not as bad as they may at first look.

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