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Plane burst into flames on airport runway as horror engine failure killed 55

Air flight disasters are extremely rare in Britain but when these incidents occur, they can bring fatal consequences.

On August 22 in 1985, at Manchester Airport, 55 people were killed due to a catastrophic engine failure on the runway.

It was around 7am when all the 131 passengers and six crew had boarded the British Airtours flight 28M – owned by British Airways – a Boeing 737-236 Advanced aircraft.

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Formerly called Goldfinch, but re-branded River Orrin, the flight was due to head to Corfu International Airport in Greece.

Captained by Peter Terrington, and first officer Brian Love, the plane started its normal take off procedures on runway 24.

However, things quickly took a turn for the worst when a loud thump was heard from underneath the craft.

The take off was stopped, as the captain thought a tyre had burst – but it hadn't.

The reverse thrusters were activated, but the fire alarm in the cabin started to ring.

A member of cabin crew was recorded on the black box stating: “There's a lot of fire in here.”

Ground control suggested an evacuation take place as the airports own fire alarm was activated.

Evacuations started around 45 seconds after the loud bang was heard, while two fire engines started showering the engines with foam.

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But in doing so, they also foamed the door the passengers were trying to escape from.

Pushing through the plane, 34 passengers went out via the right front door, while chaos ensued at the over-wing exit due to passenger panic and awkward seat placement.

And then things really got out of hand.

The experts at Simple Flying explained: “The left over-wing exit was blocked by smoke and flames, while the passengers seated at the right over-wing exit did not fully understand how to operate the hatch.

“At the time of the accident, there was no requirement that exit-row passengers be briefed on how and when to open the over-wing exit.

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“Once the exit hatch, which weighed 22 kg (48 lb), was eventually released, it fell inwards, trapping the passenger seated next to it.

“Although two passengers put the hatch on a seat in the next row back, the restricted seat pitch and having the armrests down for take-off severely inhibited the egress of passengers through this exit.

“Passengers towards the plane's rear panicked as smoke and flames poured into the cabin, which induced something of a stampede to escape the burning aircraft.”

The final escapee was a 14-year-old boy, found five minutes after the fire by rescuers crouching on top of another now-dead passenger.

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Of the 53 passengers and two crew who died, it was ruled that toxic smoke had been the cause of death.

It was ruled by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) that one of the combustors on the port engine had ruptured, which led fuel to combine with hot gases.

This created a huge fire, which wasn't helped by the wind

The AAIB also said that four major factors led to the deaths of the passengers.

Those were the vulnerability of the wing tank access panels to impact, the lack of any effective provision for fighting major fires inside the aircraft cabin, the vulnerability of the aircraft hull to external fire and the extremely toxic nature of the emissions from the burning interior materials.

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The experts at Simple Flying added: ”There were many lessons to be learned by the aviation industry following this. As a result of the appalling loss of life, changes to passenger aviation were introduced, the impacts of which remain in evidence today.

“The spacing of seating adjacent to emergency exits and over-wing exits was increased, with briefings for those passengers seated in these rows regarding how to use the exits being made a requirement.

“Additional fire extinguishers are also to be provided in the passenger cabin.”

Fire-resistant seat coverings, wall panels and ceiling panels were also brought in, as was emergency floor lights.

A memorial now sits at Manchester Airport near the site of the incident.

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