A British Airways jet has caught fire at Las Vegas airport, sending smoke billowing into the air, after suffering what the pilot described as a “catastrophic failure” of the left engine.
The plane – a Boeing 777 heading from the US city’s McCarran airport to London Gatwick – could be seen with flames around its fuselage.
Fire officials said 14 people were taken to Sunrise hospital to be treated for minor injuries, including cuts and bruises, most a result of sliding down the inflatable chutes to escape.
All 159 passengers and 13 crew on board were evacuated, and the fire was swiftly put out by around 50 firefighters. An airport spokeswoman told reporters: “All passengers were evacuated quickly and safely and taken by bus to the terminal.
“We cannot express enough gratitude to the emergency response crews, as well as the British Airways crew.”
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the incident, she added.
The plane’s take-off had been aborted shortly before the fire broke out. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the Boeing’s 777 left engine burst into flames.
Dramatic images of flight BA2276 were shared on social media by members of the public at the airport, which is five miles south of downtown Las Vegas.
The first sign of a problem came when one of the BA pilots contacted air traffic control shortly after the plane had begun its take-off procedures: “Speedbird 2276 heavy stopping.”
Fifteen seconds later one of the pilots says: “Speedbird Mayday Mayday. Speedbird 2276 request fire services.”
Air traffic control responds: “Speedbird 2276, heavy fire services on the way.”
About 30 seconds later one of the pilots says: “Speedbird 2276 heavy, we are evacuating on the runway. We have a fire, repeat, we are evacuating.”
McCarran airport said the first call alerting it to the emergency had come at 4.13pm local time (7.13pm EDT/11.13pm GMT/9.13am AEST), and flames were spotted one minute later. The fire was extinguished and all passengers evacuated by 4.18pm.
Airport authorities said one runway had been put out of service, but other flights were operating as normal from the three other runways. Some flights would be subject to delays, they said.
In the wake of the blaze, the FAA ordered all inbound air traffic from several other airports to be held at their points of origin, including San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The ground stop was later lifted, although delays were likely.
Passengers from the stricken BA2276 were being taken to the Orleans hotel, near the Las Vegas strip. Steinberg said many were shaking the hand of the pilot, who “looked pretty shook up”.
McCarran airport is the ninth busiest in the US and saw nearly 43 million passengers pass through it last year.
The aircraft model was identified as a 275-seat B777-200, a long-range twin jet which operates on longhaul routes for BA, one of the world’s largest operators of the type.
A spokeswoman for British Airways said safety was the airline’s priority and the airline was looking after customers affected by the incident.
Boeing said it was “aware of the incident at McCarran airport in Las Vegas”, adding: “Our teams are currently gathering more information.”