A Qatar Airways passenger jet with over 300 people on board was forced to make an emergency landing at Istanbul's main airport on Thursday after an engine caught fire, the airline said, blaming a 'bird strike' for the blaze.
Bird strikes are a significant threat to flight safety, and have caused a number of accidents with human casualties. The number of major accidents involving civil aircraft is quite low and it has been estimated that there is only about 1 accident resulting in human death in one billion (109) flying hours. The majority of bird strikes (65%) cause little damage to the aircraft. however the collision is usually fatal to the bird(s) involved.
The Airbus A330 had been headed for Doha, Qatar but had to turn back to Ataturk International airport less than 30 minutes into its journey.
Shocking videos have captured flames shooting out of the passenger jet's engine as it returns to the Istanbul hub.
The plane was carrying 298 passengers and 14 crew and all were evacuated safely, according to the airline.
However, local Turkish news agencies reported one woman on board was hospitalized after suffering a fainting spell.
The airline blamed the fire on Flight QR240 on what it described as a “bird strike,” without elaborating. Typically, such strikes can see birds sucked into a passenger plane’s jet engine, sparking a fire and shorting it out.
All 298 passengers and 14 crew disembarked normally and the airline is sending a replacement aircraft to Istanbul.
Customer needs, including onward travel, will be taken care of by the airline. The safety of our passengers is our most important responsibility. The pilot followed all safety procedures.
Turkish media said the airline would send a replacement aircraft to Istanbul to ferry waiting passengers onward to its hub in the new Hamad International Airport in Doha.
Typically, such strikes can see birds sucked into a passenger plane's jet engine, sparking a fire and shorting it out.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the emergency landing was ordered after flames came out of the plane's left-side engine.
Turkish Airlines employee Mehmet Kirazoglu, who reported on the incident via Twitter, said: "I was in Turkish Airlines Technology building nearby the IST airport we heard a strange engine sound over us. When we looked up we saw a Qatar Airways plane whose left engine was flaming out. It turned round towards sea; I suppose it drained its fuel in the Marmara Sea. Thank god, we have learnt that it landed safely. At one point it was top over us and saw the burning engine clearly."
Qatar Airways is one of the Mideast's three biggest carriers, alongside the region's biggest carrier, the Dubai-based Emirates Airline, and the Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways.
Qatar Airways flies out of its hub in the vast new Hamad International Airport in Doha, which is preparing to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.