A plane full of U.S. military personnel had to be evacuated on the taxiway at Shannon International Airport in Ireland early this morning after a landing gear fire caused by an aborted takeoff. The reason the pilots decided to reject the takeoff? Because one of the windows in the flight deck had been left partially open.
— Toby’s Aviation (@TobysAviation) August 15, 2019
Shannon airport was closed for several hours after what the authorities simply described as an “incident” on the airfield. Several flights had to be cancelled as the emergency services worked to remove the stricken aircraft from the runway.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the airport said it could “confirm that an incident has occurred at Shannon Airport involving a Boeing 763 aircraft. Emergency services are in attendance. All passengers and crew have disembarked. Airport operations temporarily suspended.”
The aircraft was operated by Omni Air International, a Tulsa-based charter and wet-lease specialist. The airline regulary uses Shannon airport for U.S. troop movements to and from Afghanistan.
It’s believed the aircraft had stopped off at Shannon for a brief refuelling stop and was preparing to depart when the flight crew noticed one of the flight deck windows was still partially open. The pilots performed a rejected takeoff at speed and applied the brakes which in turn created a lot of heat to build up in the landing gear.
As the aircraft was taxiing off the runway, air traffic controllers in the airport tower noticed smoke and fire coming from the main landing gear and advised an evacuation.
All passengers and crew were able to safely evacuate via the emergency slides on the right-hand side of the aircraft only. Emergency services responded and there were no reports of injuries.
Some observers have criticised the pilots, noting that performing a rejected takeoff was far riskier than taking off with a partially open flight deck window and then immediately returning to Shannon airport. Flight deck windows can be cranked open and have to be manually checked to ensure they are properly closed before departure.
The Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit sent a go-team to Shannon airport and confirmed it had opened an investigation into the incident. Omni International has not yet commented.