By Ted Jeory

The captain radioed for help when smoke began filling the cockpit of the British Airways Boeing 777 on a flight from Heathrow to New York.

The plane landed safely and the cause of the suspected electrical fault is still being investigated, but 15 years ago 229 people died when a Swiss Air jet ditched in the Atlantic with a similar problem.

British Airways flight BA177 with 220 people on board had taken off Normally at 1.05pm last Saturday.

Just before 2pm, however, the crew spotted smoke filling the cockpit.

After donning oxygen masks they immediately contacted air traffic controllers and told them they were trying to locate the source of the possible fire and demanded urgent assistance.

In the rush to act, the cabin address system had been switched on and the start of their call was also broadcast to all the passengers aboard.

Realising their error, the pilots then switched their conversation back onto a private VHF frequency and requested immediate clearance to land at Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland about 120 miles away.

They then told the passengers there had been an electrical fault but they were in control.

The plane made a rapid descent and landed at Shannon surrounded by emergency vehicles 25 minutes later.

Passengers said the experience had been “frightening” but praised the Airline and its pilots for the way they handled the emergency, despite having to wait seven hours for a replacement jet to New York’s JFK airport.

Rob Waite, who was on board with with his new wife, wrote on the Aviation Herald website: “It was pretty frightening hearing the Mayday call but the flight crew said the PA was accidentally turned on.

“The descent was controlled and landing heavy but again controlled. The pilot attributed the smoke to an electrical fault but as soon as the source was found and electrical supply cut, the fire was stopped.

“I was absolutely amazed at the calmness of all of the passengers and crew.

“Whilst it was a huge interruption to the journey and quite frightening I cannot commend BA and their staff highly enough, hugely professional and helpful at all times, and grateful to make it to JFK in one piece and only eight hours behind schedule.”

Another passenger named only as Nick added: “Not sure it was typical for the first few words of the Mayday request to be broadcast in the cabin but I’m sure the pilots had important things to think about.

“The pilots kept regular updates going even if sounding like Darth Vader behind the masks. Thank you BA.”

The airline is still investigating the incident but the source of the smoke is believed to have been an overheating cockpit circulation fan.

A similar fault caused Swiss Air flight SR111 to ditch in the Atlantic killing 229 people in 1998 partly because pilots took so long to recognise how quickly such fires can spread.

Last Thursday another BA Boeing 777 en route to New York had to land at Shannon when a burning smell was detected in the cabin.

No one was hurt and the source of the smell turned out to be an oven in the galley.

Original Story Found Here.

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