The British Airways aircraft that crash-landed short of the runway at Heathrow yesterday may have lost all power in its engines as it made its final approach.
The Boeing 777 from Beijing hit the ground as it approached Heathrow’s south runway just before 12.45pm, smashing its undercarriage and skidding for almost 1,000 yards.
Eighteen of the 136 passengers and 16 crew were treated in hospital for minor injuries following an emergency evacuation, with one person kept in over night.
The engines, wings and tail of the aircraft were badly damaged by the impact and pilot Peter Burkill has been praised for his skill in landing without causing serious injury.
Eyewitnesses suggested the aircraft was in difficulty as it approached, flying at an unusual angle and with its nose too high.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch and Department for Transport are investigating and an initial report is expected over the weekend. However, it may be a year before full details are made public.
Initial theories centred on the apparent power failure, which would be highly unusual given the back-up systems on the aircraft. Weather-related causes, including a phenomenon known as wind shear, have also been suggested.
The pilot appears to have had no time to warn air traffic control of a problem or even instruct passengers to adopt the brace position for an emergency landing.
The Boeing 777 aircraft, launched in 1995, has not been involved in a fatal crash since entering service. Heathrow’s south runway was closed for several hours leading to the cancellation of 221 flights, about one in six of the daily departures, and delays to many others.
Some inbound flights were diverted to Luton, Stansted or Manchester and others held at airports on the continent.
Further disruption to services is expected today and passengers are advised to contact their airline.