SHANNON Airport was closed to aircraft for four and a half hours this morning, but it could have been much worse but for the fact a fire on board a plane was quickly spotted and extinguished.
Director of Operations at Shannon Airport Niall Maloney said that the response began at 6.15am. “We were alerted by air traffic control to an issue with an aircraft that we responded to. We were responding to smoke in the undercarriage but it developed into a fire.”
The aircraft in question was an Omni Boeing 767-300 which had travelled from America to Shannon and was due to go onwards to the Middle East. While Omni typically use Shannon to transport troops, there has not been confirmation as to whether or not troops were on board the plane on this occasion.
There were 145 passengers and 14 crew on board the aircraft at the time and Mr Maloney said they were all uninjured. “One passenger may have had a slight ankle twist, but he walked off the aircraft with no bother at all,” said Mr Maloney.
He also praised the work done in response to the incident. “The response from our fire staff prevented a more serious occurrence. We were alerted by the Tower, but the response of our fire guys was top class.”
He said the circumstances were very unusual for the airport staff. “Normally when you hear about an aircraft emergency into Shannon you have an hours notice, but this was on the fly and we were required to respond. We had a lot of co-operation from the airlines who had flights diverted, flights cancelled. We had people on the ground to help passengers get on their way. I think people were very understanding.”
Explaining why the aircraft was on the ground for a number of hours, he said, “There were a couple of things. One was that the aircraft had to cool down, secondly it was immobilised by the damage done to the undercarriage. Also we had to get permission from the Air Accident Investigation Unit, they determine what we can and can’t do, because they want to investigate it.”