Fire Breaks Out Beneath Flight On Ground At Calgary
Passengers onboard Alaska Airlines Flight 698 bound for LAX
Sunday were shocked when a flames shot out off the right engine of
their airliner as it backing away from the gate in preparation to
depart from Calgary. Several passengers were even more shocked --
and angry -- flight attendants then did not take steps to evacuate
"I was scared," said passenger Connie Watkins, to Calgary's CTV.
"It was a good thing we were still on the ground."
According to passenger accounts, flames shot out the rear of the
right turbofan as the plane was pushing away from the gate, and
smoke filled the aft cabin of the 737-900 -- as luck would have it,
just as flight attendants were beginning the preflight safety
announcements. While none of the 113 passengers and five
crewmembers onboard the 737 were injured in the incident,
passengers claim the crew did not react immediately to the
"And the stewardess
yelled to another stewardess that there was a fire. She came back
and looked, and then they both looked and then they all left. And
then we didn't see nobody," Watkins said. "We were all standing up
in the aisles and there wasn't nobody there at all."
It was at this point, Watkins said, passengers began to shout
they wanted to evacuate, but the doors remained closed.
"The stewardess again ran up to the front," said passenger
Dennis Cornish to USA Today, "and that took time. Then she came
running back again and she was on the phone."
"Everybody was jumping up trying to get off because they weren't
opening the doors or anything," Watkins said.
After what seemed like an eternity, according to the passengers,
the decision was made to evacuate. "And at that time she said,
'Leave everything. We are going to evacuate by chute'," Dennis
Cornish's wife, Janette, said.
As passengers fled the airliner, fire crews doused the
Passengers are now
asking Alaska Airlines for an explanation of the perceived
evacuation delay, although airline official Caroline Boren stated
the crew appeared to have followed normal procedure.
"We're grateful that everyone got off safely," Boren said. "The
crew made the decision to evacuate the aircraft based on the smoke
that was in the cabin and all of that occurred within about two
minutes." Boren added the airline will review the incident, to make
The cause of the flames was not immediately known, although the
airline said it may have been an example of "torching," a
not-uncommon phenomenon where residual fuel is ignited by heat
given off as the engines spool up, causing flames to briefly shoot
out the exhaust in a manner consistent with passenger reports.
All passengers were rerouted onto other flights, and Alaska
Airlines also promised to cover any hotel expenses incurred by
those who had to stay overnight while waiting for an available
flight out of Calgary. The airline also gave each passenger a $5
gift certificate for a nearby coffee shop.
The airline is investigating the incident, as is the NTSB.