Thai AirAsia has apologised for the emergency landing of an Airbus A320 plane at the the Maldives international airport on Thursday night after its engine caught fire.
The FD178 flight bound for Bangkok with 58 passengers departed at 8:25pm and landed back safely at 8:41pm.
“The aircraft encountered a technical issue during takeoff, upon which the pilots turned back and requested a priority landing at Male’s Velana International Airport, in line with standard operating procedures,” AirAsia said in a statement on Friday.
The flight was cancelled and passengers departed on a new flight on Friday afternoon. They were “safe and taken care of with food and drinks and the airline provided them with hotel rooms,” AirAsia said. “We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused.”
The aircraft was taken in for an “engineering assessment” at the Malé airport.
“Our pilots are well-trained to manage these types of incidents and while those on board may have heard a loud bang, there was never any immediate risk to passenger safety,” said Safety Head Captain Ling Liong Tien.
According to media reports, the pilots stopped the climb around 5,000 feet after passengers heard “loud banging noises” from an engine on fire. The pilots immediately closed the engine and circled twice before making the emergency landing.
Several videos taken from the nearby capital island showing the plane with its engine on fire were posted online. Witnesses also claimed to have seen the engine on fire when the plane took off.
A New Zealand couple on the plane reportedly heard a loud bang and saw flames. According to the woman, her husband kicked on the pilot’s cockpit door and demanded that they turn back after the captain announced that the plane could fly on one engine.
“We continued to scream along with other terrified passengers that we needed to land but the plane continued ascending. They were not communicating with any of us so Jason ran to the front of the plane and started kicking the cockpit door screaming for them to do something,” she was quoted as saying.
“Finally, the plane started to turn and they announced that it would take 15 minutes to get back to Malè.”
The passengers were only allowed to disembark after an inspection was carried out, she said.
Tourism Minister Ali Waheed and senior officials rushed to the airport after the incident and helped arrange accommodation for the tourists.
— ⚫️⚪️TEDRY🎈❓ (@tedry) September 5, 2019
— ahmed shahid (@ahmedshahidh) September 5, 2019
Airasia FD178, shortly after takeoff at 2020MVT. pic.twitter.com/cnMKwgvY9D
— @waddey 🎈 (@waddey) September 5, 2019