An engine erupted into flames on a tourist plane carrying 321 people in Thailand as its tyres exploded during takeoff, leading to the pilot abruptly aborting the departure.
In the emergency 309 passengers and 12 crew on a Russian tourist plane in Phuket, Thailand, were offloaded and forced to await a new aircraft.
Dramatic pictures and footage showed the Boeing 767-306ER hit by sudden fire due to an ‘engine surge’.
There were reports of a ‘loud bang’ in the takeoff emergency.
The landing gear also ignited in flames on the same right side of the aircraft as the aircraft aborted its departure, said reports.
A suspicion is that Russian airlines are cutting corners with safety and seeking to operate ageing aircraft without proper maintenance following tough Western sanctions over Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
This 26-year-old plane operated by charter company Azur Air was en route from Phuket International Airport to Moscow when it was hit by the drama.
Passengers on board included families of men hiding from Putin’s mobilisation decree.
Some had left their men in Thailand – seen as a ‘friendly’ country by Russia – amid suspicions of a new round of conscription.
Other men were returning to Russia after running out of money, despite the fear they could be mobilised in a feared new forced recruitment drive and sent to the front.
The images and footage shows the frightening twin problems on the plane which had a total of 321 on board.
‘Airline technical specialists have already started work to eliminate the malfunctions,’ said a statement from the Russian airline.
‘Passengers of flight ZF-3604 will be provided with a hotel, hot meals and soft drinks while waiting for departure to Moscow.’
Passengers were told they would now fly on Sunday on a replacement aircraft.
‘The vacation continues,’ one posted.
‘At first the takeoff was normal,’ a passenger told Izvestia.
‘But then there was a surge and I heard the sound of crackling.
‘When passengers left the plane, it was clear that the landing gear of the aircraft was damaged.’
One report said the plane had been close to taking off at 120mph when problems arose.
On Wednesday a top Russian aviation official said Western-made airliners – which are not undergoing normal service in Russian currently due to sanctions – can be used until 2030.
‘I am confident that it has not become more dangerous to fly – and it has nothing to do with the presence or absence of original spare parts,’ said Head of the Russian Federal Agency for Air Transport, Alexander Neradko.
He demanded that people stop describing as ‘cannibalisation’ for the way planes are being kept flying in Russia by using spare parts from other aircraft.
‘It appeared at the behest of those who have never worked in civil aviation and who are unaware of the fact that the practice of interchanging serviceable spare parts from jet to jet has always been widespread, even during the Soviet times,’ he claimed.
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