Date: April 31st 1998
Type: British Aerospace 748
Registration: G-OJEM
Operator: Emerald Air
Where: Stansted Airport, 37 miles northeast of London
Report No.: Not Available
Report Date: -
Pages: -

This is not an accident investigation report.


British Plane Crash Lands Safely

LONDON, England - A chartered plane carrying a British soccer team crash- landed early today after its right engine caught fire shortly after takeoff. Two people suffered minor injuries.

The captain of the British Aerospace 748 aborted the takeoff after the aircraft had climbed to 150 feet. The plane overshot the runway as it touched down at Stansted Airport, 37 miles northeast of London.

The plane's nose wheel collapsed when the aircraft came to a stop about 300 feet from a perimeter fence.

The plane, operated by Belfast-based Emerald Air, had 40 passengers, including the Leeds United soccer team, and four crew members. The only member of the Leeds party to be injured was David O'Leary, assistant manager and former Irish international, who hurt his shoulder. Manager George Graham wasn't on the plane, deciding to stay in London overnight after the team's 3-0 loss to West Ham on Monday.

Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale described the dramatic take off.

``Everyone on board could see the flames and the explosion and everyone seemed to be shouting: `Fire! There's a fire!''' he said.

``Obviously, we had just taken off. You know the plane is full of fuel and you just hope you land before it explodes.''

The plane, operated by Belfast-based Emerald Air, carried a crew of four and 40 passengers, including 18 players. Apart from O'Leary's shoulder injury, another had superficial cuts, authorities said

``Just after we took off we heard a big bang and saw the flames from the engine on the right-hand side,'' Leeds player Gunner Halle said.

The soccer players were on their way home from a game in London.

Melvyn Seymour, the airport's duty manager, said the plane was heavily damaged and is ``probably a write-off.'' John Stent, chief executive at Stansted, said it was the first serious accident since the airport opened as a major terminal seven years ago.

The pilot of the Leeds United plane which crash-landed at Stansted Airport in Essex has been highly praised for averting a disaster. Captain John Hackett, 61, had only half a minute to land the British Aerospace 748 turbo-prop before there was a severe explosion, according to experts.

The engine shows signs of the fire"I dread to think what would have happened then. You would have been talking about a major explosion and I would think almost certainly fatalities.

"From the time of the fire and explosion in the engine took place he would probably have had a few seconds to decide to abort the flight.

"Those are the decision pilots are trained to make and he made a superb decision."

He added: "I would like to praise the way the players of Leeds United and other people on the plane behaved. They were a credit to their club with the calmness they showed in the way they got off the plane and the way they behaved themselves."

The team was returning to Leeds after being beaten 3-0 by West Ham when one of the engines burst into flames seconds after take-off. The take-off was aborted but the plane overshot the runway and its nose and undercarriage collapsed.

Fuel, in tanks in the wings, was spilling out as the passengers jumped clear and firefighters had feared that there might be a major explosion at any second.

The Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale described the scene on the plane.

"I was sitting in the centre and just as the wheels started to leave the ground, I saw flames coming out of the engine. A few seconds later, as we were leaving the ground, there was a large explosion and the whole engine went up in flames.

"Everyone on board could see the flames and the explosion and everyone seemed to be shouting: 'Fire! There's a fire!' At that stage we were still climbing and almost immediately a buzzer went off and someone - I assume it was a stewardess - said we were going to make an emergency landing and would we please be braced. We knew we were coming down. The flames were getting worse.

Leeds Assistant Manager David O'Leary injured his shoulder"David O'Leary (Leeds assistant manager) was in the opposite seat to me by an emergency exit. David opened it very very quickly and started getting everybody out. Everybody seemed to go pretty quickly to one of the emergency exits.

"David was superb. He was marshalling everybody out. The cabin crew were superb.

"Then it was a question of jumping from the window and getting as far away from the plane as possible. I could feel the heat on my right shoulder. Obviously we had just taken off. You know the plane is full of fuel and you just hope you land before it explodes."

As flames spread from the engine, all 40 passengers - including 18 Leeds players and four crew - carried out a "text book" evacuation. Only two people were slightly injured.

O'Leary, sustained a minor shoulder injury trying to force an emergency exit open.

"All of a sudden it was just like a roller coaster," said the former Republic of Ireland defender. "The captain said he just had to ditch the plane because if we went up any more it would have been a complete explosion, because he was carrying one and a half tonnes of fuel."

The plane has been towed off the end of the runway and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch is trying to find out what caused the engine to catch fire.