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August 31, 2010

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Smoke-filled flight turns tail

A Shanghai Airlines flight en route to Hong Kong returned to the Pudong International Airport yesterday after smoke from the air-conditioning system filled the aircraft. Plenty of passengers were nervous, but none were injured.

The FM809 flight, operated by a Boeing 757 jet, left the Shanghai airport at 11:19am for Hong Kong, but when smoke appeared and emergency oxygen masks popped out, the aircraft returned to the airport and landed at 12:10pm.

"Initial investigation showed that the smoke came out from air conditioner system, which should not affect the safety of the flight. But after the Yichun air crash, we are more cautious and decided to fly the aircraft back," a spokesman of Shanghai Air told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

A passenger who sat at the 19th row told China National Radio that he saw smoke come out from the fourth or fifth row after the plane took off and some passengers alleged they saw sparks.

He said the smoke gradually spread to the economy class. Air attendants tried to control the smoke with a fire extinguisher, but failed. Later, first class passengers were evacuated to the economy class and air crew talked to people through the process of donning oxygen masks, he said.

Nervous passengers

The passenger said it was hard to open eyes amidst the smoke and passengers were all very nervous. After the plane landed in the Pudong airport, three fire engines were waiting at the parking apron with ambulance, he said.

The Shanghai Air spokesman said maintenance staff are conducting further investigation into the accident.

A ground handling official said the 131 passengers took three other flights to Hong Kong at 2pm, 3:30pm and 4pm.

The aircraft had been scheduled to take off at 10am, "but it was delayed because of air traffic control," the official said.

On the night of August 24, a ERJ-190 plane of Henan Airlines crashed during its landing at Lindu Airport of the northeastern city of Yichun, killing 42 people.

Since the crash, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has been making safety inspections of the nation's passenger airline network.

Chairman of Air China Kong Dong said yesterday in Hong Kong that the recent crash of Henan Air was due to overexpansion under previous management.

Air China's subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines holds a 51 percent stake in Henan Airlines. Kong said that Li Zeyuan, the former controller of Shenzhen Air, expanded the business too quickly at the expense of flight safety. Kong said it was Shenzhen Air's responsibility to improve Henan Air's operation safety.


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