Garuda Indonesia flight turns back and makes emergency landing after engine fire

By AFP   May 15, 2024 | 06:28 pm PT
A jetliner taking 468 people from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia made an emergency landing on Wednesday due to an engine fire, the Garuda Indonesia airline said, in the latest incident in the archipelago's poor safety record.

The Indonesian flag carrier said the Garuda-1105 flight to Madinah – operated by a Boeing 747-400 – returned to its original airport in the Indonesian city of Makassar at 5:15 p.m., with all passengers unhurt.

"The decision was made by the pilot in command immediately after take-off, considering engine problems that required further examination after sparks of fire were observed in one of the engines," said Garuda president-director Irfan Setiaputra in a statement.

There were 450 passengers and 18 crew members on the flight, Irfan said, and they included pilgrims for the haj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

They were all redirected to accommodation before boarding a replacement flight later on May 15 to Saudi Arabia, he said.

Footage posted on social media, which has not been verified by AFP, purported to show the plane's engine catching fire as it took off.

The plane was grounded for a safety probe, Irfan said.

The airline, which is 60% owned by the Indonesian state, suffered massive losses during the Covid-19 pandemic, grounding the majority of its fleet over travel restrictions and declining demand and laying off hundreds of employees.

The Southeast Asian archipelago relies heavily on air transport to connect its thousands of islands but has suffered a string of deadly plane crashes in recent years.

Its grim aviation record includes a crash in 2021 in which a Sriwijaya Air Boeing passenger jet mysteriously plunged into the Java sea after take-off from capital Jakarta, killing all 62 people on board.

In March, Indonesia’s Transport Ministry said it had opened a probe into local airline Batik Air after two of its pilots were found to have fallen asleep during a flight.

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