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British Airways flight forced to make emergency landing after ‘terrible’ burning smell detected in cabin

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A passenger on a British Airways flight to Malaga, which turned back to London City airport after just seven minutes, has told of “a terrible smell of burning” in the cabin – and of the cabin crew being “clearly in distress”.

As the aircraft landed safely, emergency vehicles “chased the plane down the runway”.

Flight BA8487 took off from London City airport to Malaga a few minutes late at 1.21pm on Sunday 3 September. The aircraft was an 11-year-old Embraer E190 – part of the British Airways CityFlyer fleet, a dedicated unit based at the Docklands airport.

On board the almost-full 98-seat jet was property manager Justine Walker, 52, and her 78-year-old mother, both from Beckenham in south-east London. They were sitting in row 9.

“We had barely taken off when there was a terrible smell of burning,” said Ms Walker.

“The pilot announced he had ‘a very important announcement’ to make and urged us to listen carefully. He then said: ‘As you have probably noticed there has been smell of burning, this is down to a fault with the air-conditioning and we are going to have to make an emergency landing in the next 10 minutes.’

“This was followed by alarms and a recorded message to tell us to remove our shoes and get in the brace position. The message was repeated.

“The cabin crew were clearly in distress as they could barely speak over the public-address system. There was no sight of them to calm any passengers down.”

The aircraft had flown no higher than 3,600 feet when it turned back over the village of Wrotham in Kent. It flew over the south-east of the capital and the City of London and landed back at its starting point 16 minutes after take-off. As well as fire engines, police vehicles and ambulances attended.

Quick return: The British Airways jet was in the air for only 16 minutes


A passenger on another British Airways flight waiting to depart said that when the aircraft made the emergency landing, “fire service vehicles chased the plane down the runway”.

Ms Walker said: “The stewardess then came on and said we had to leave the aircraft as quickly as possible and to leave all hand luggage behind. She appeared to be in tears at this point. Her voice was shaking with emotion.”

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