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8th of March 1998

A McDonnell Douglas Dc-10-30 was scheduled to operate an intercontinental flight between Manchester (England) and Newark airport (USA). Onboard a crew of 14 and 249 passengers. There were no defects with the aircraft and the weather was good.

Firefighters carrying out a check of the engine after the fire was extinguished © Stuart Prince

After the engines were started, the aircraft was cleared to taxi to the holding point of Runway 06 at 11.32 local time. 4 minutes later the aircraft was handed over to the Tower controller. At the same time, the flight deck crew was informed by the cabin crew of an unusual smell in the cabin. Although there was no abnormal indication the flight crew also observed a slight smell of what they thought was gasoline. At 11.39 the co-pilot asked the tower for clearance to return to stand,w which was granted. 5 minutes later, while the aircraft was taxiing back to the terminal, the tower controller saw and subsequently informed the crew of some .vapour that was visible venting from the #2 engine (tail engine). The aircraft was stopped on the taxiway and the captain requested the presence of the fire brigade, they were on the scene within a very short time as the aircraft stopped about 200 meters from the fire station.

The aircraft after completion of the evacuation © Stuart Prince

Upon the arrival of the fire brigade, the commander informed them that there were fumes in the cabin. At the same time, the fire officer observed fuel running from the #2 engine and informed the captain about this. The firefighters then observed a fire starting in the #2 engine and suggested to the captain to evacuate the aircraft, The evacuation was immediately initiated following the required checklists and completed quickly. In the meantime, the firefighters extinguished the fire. The engine fire and fuel leak was investigated by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and in their report (available by clicking here) they state the following probable cause of the incident;


An internal leak in the Fuel Cooled Oil Cooler - FCOC - (engine oil is cooled using fuel as cooling medium) caused fuel to enter the oil system which cause the oil system to slowly fill up with fuel causing fuel vapour in the oil system vent system to be ignited in the exhaust, A large rupture was found in the FCOC caused by fatigue and interference between cooling pipes in the FCOC.

Principle of an FCOC, Fuel Cooled Oil Cooler (from Public Domain)

During the evacuation, there were problems with three (of the eight) evacuation slides. The problems ranged from partial inflation to no inflation. In the above mentioned AAIB report, details on these failures are provided.

After the necessary repairs, the aircraft was released to service.


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