Passenger feared for life

Passenger feared for life

With the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 unresolved, a FIFO worker was fearful when the engine of the charter aircraft he was in caught fire mid-air after taking-off from Perth Airport last Tuesday.

He was Pilbara-bound for his first stint as an electrical trades assistant, and it had already been a long morning.

His 8.30am scheduled charter flight was cancelled due to a computer wiring fault.

After disembarking to wait two hours in the terminal, Mr Galati boarded Cobham Aviation Services flight VH-NJI with 91 other passengers.

‘We took off and 10 minutes into it, the guys on the left noticed a few sparks and saw the back of an engine glowing red,’ he said.

Passengers began to panic and some were crying as the engine burst into flames.

‘I saw the flames and the fuel running along the windows,’ Mr Galati said.

On the ground, Community Newspaper Group reader Matt Pilat used his iPhone to capture the moment the four-engine plane was on fire.

From Miles Road in Kewdale, the Sinagra resident saw the fire increase in size as the plane flew overhead.

Meanwhile, crew told passengers to stay in their seats and calm down.

Mr Galati said the terrified occupants of the plane were told there had been a ‘minor fault’.

‘That’s what they said: a ‘minor fault’.

‘They said they would turn around and bring us back to the airport ” it felt like a long time.’

The loss of an engine meant the landing was rough.

Touch down was at 10.53am.

The cabin was silent as passengers simply sat in shock. They had survived a mid-air incident.

Perth Airport emergency services were on standby and the Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting Services was on site to escort the plane back to the gate as a precaution.

Shaken but unharmed, passengers disembarked to hear whether they would make a third attempt to fly to Barrow Island that day.

It was relief for Mr Galati to see partner Carla Baltasar as she collected him from the airport late that afternoon.

He said Chevron had offered its staff access to counsellors. The Cobham plane also carried two pilots and three cabin crew on that day.

A Cobham spokesman said the fire occurred in the second engine, at the inner port side of the aircraft, and the incident was being investigated.