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China: Firefighters spray foam on wrong aircraft after fire alert

world Updated: Dec 11, 2015 19:36 IST

An airport worker inspects the under-carriage of Air China planes while they are parked at the terminal building of Beijing's International Airport in this file photo.(Reuters Photo)

In a bizarre incident, Chinese firemen were left red-faced while responding to reports of a fire in a passenger jet’s engine as they drove past the concerned plane and sprayed foam onto another aircraft.

The pilot of Fuzhou Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane raised an alarm by contacting the control tower at Fuzhou Changle International Airport, in Fuzhou on Thursday after noticing sparks coming out from the right-hand engine of an Air China Boeing 737-800 that was waiting to take off nearby.

Officials in the control tower immediately sent eight fire engines to the scene.

By the time the firemen arrived, the Air China aircraft had already shut down its engines, the South China Morning Post reported.

The firemen drove straight past the airliner and after spotting heat emissions coming from the Fuzhou Airlines jet’s engines, hosed down the plane with foam to “cool it” down.

After two minutes, officials in the control tower contacted the firemen as they noticed that the firefighters had sprayed foam on the wrong aircraft.

The incident caused the runway to be closed. Flights at the airport returned to normal 90 minutes after the report of the engine fire, but a number of flights were delayed.

Air China said in a statement the sparks seen coming from its engine were “normal” and would not pose any risk to the aircraft.

Some aircraft fuel would trigger sparks when the engine was running at a low pressure, the statement said.

However, the report did not say why the Air China aircraft had shut down its engines.

Zhang Qihuai, an aviation expert in Beijing, told the Beijing Youth Daily that officials in the control tower should have called the Air China pilot to confirm there had been a problem with its engine before dispatching fire engines.

But the airport firemen should also bear some responsibility for the mistake, he said.