British Airtours Flight 28M

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British Airtours Flight 28M
British Airours Boeing 737-200 Marmet.jpg
A similar British Airtours Boeing 737–236 Advanced, named River Wey, wearing British Airtours' Landor Associates livery at the time of the accident.
Accident summary
Date 22 August 1985, 06:12 BST
Summary Fire on the ground caused by uncontained engine failure
Site Manchester Airport
Manchester, England
53°20′45″N 2°17′36″W / 53.34583°N 2.29333°W / 53.34583; -2.29333Coordinates: 53°20′45″N 2°17′36″W / 53.34583°N 2.29333°W / 53.34583; -2.29333
Passengers 131
Crew 6
Injuries (non-fatal) 15 (serious)
Fatalities 55 (54 on site, 1 subsequently in hospital (53 passengers, 2 crew))
Survivors 82
Aircraft type Boeing 737–236 Advanced
Aircraft name River Orrin (formerly Goldfinch)
Operator British Airtours
Registration G-BGJL
Flight origin Manchester Airport
Destination Corfu International Airport

British Airtours Flight 28M was an international passenger flight, originating from Manchester International Airport's Runway 24 in Manchester, England, en route to Corfu International Airport on the Greek island of Corfu. On 22 August 1985, the flight was being flown by Boeing 737–236 G-BGJL, when take-off from Manchester Airport was aborted due to engine failure.

The aircraft, previously named "Goldfinch", but at the time of the accident named "River Orrin", had 131 passengers and six crew on the manifest. At 06:12 BST during the takeoff roll, a loud thump was heard. An engine failure had generated a fire and a plume of black smoke ensued. Takeoff was aborted and the captain ordered the evacuation of the aircraft,[1](p102) with 78 of the 131 passengers escaping. 53 passengers perished along with two members of the cabin crew. Most of the deaths were due to inhalation of toxic smoke which had seeped into the fuselage.[2]

After the crash investigation, a number of safety recommendations were made which included fire-resistant seat covers, floor lighting, fire-resistant wall and ceiling panels, more fire extinguishers and clearer evacuation rules.[3]


The flight crew consisted of Captain Peter Terrington (39) and First Officer Brian Love (52), both seasoned pilots with 8,441 flight hours and 12,277 flight hours, respectively. At 06:12 BST, during the takeoff phase, the pilots heard a loud thump coming from underneath the plane. Thinking a tyre had burst, they abandoned takeoff and activated the thrust reversers. Taking care in applying gradual braking, the crew steered the plane onto a taxiway off to the right of the runway and into a slight prevailing wind.[citation needed] Twenty seconds before the plane stopped, the crew discovered that the No. 1 engine was on fire.[4](p5)

By this time, fuel spilling from the port wing, combined with the light wind, had fanned the fire into a giant blaze. Fire quickly found its way into the passenger cabin, releasing toxic smoke and causing the deaths of 53 passengers and two cabin crew, 48 of them from smoke inhalation. 78 passengers and four crew escaped, with 15 people sustaining serious injuries. One passenger, a man rescued 33 minutes after the outbreak of fire after being found unconscious in the aisle, died in the hospital 6 days later as a result of his injuries.


The subsequent investigation into the incident revealed that the No. 9 combustor can on the port engine had developed a crack due to thermal fatigue.[5] This allowed the can to move out of alignment, and instead of directing the hot combustion gases out of the back of the engine, they now hit the combustion chamber casing. Eventually this led to a catastrophic explosive failure of the casing.[4](p31)

Following this, the forward section of the can was ejected from the engine, fracturing a fuel tank access panel under the wing allowing jet fuel to flow out onto the hot engine exhaust.[4](p31) Combined with the fuel being fed to the now damaged engine, this sparked a blaze that engulfed the aircraft.

Records showed the engine in question, a Pratt & Whitney JT8D-15, had experienced previous cracks to the No. 9 combustor can that had been repaired by welding. However, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch found these repairs were unsatisfactory in ensuring safe operation. It is therefore likely that they contributed to the final severe cracking which led to the accident.

Contributing factors[edit]

Operating procedures[edit]

When the aircraft came to a standstill, the damaged left engine was upwind of the fuselage, and this contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.[4](p170) It is standard procedure for ATC to advise the crew of wind direction and speed in the event of fire on board an aircraft.[citation needed]

Door problems[edit]

Immediately after the aircraft came to a halt the purser tried to open the right front (galley) door (3) but it was jammed. He then crossed to the left forward passenger door (4) and opened it 25 seconds after the aircraft had stopped. He went back to the other door and got it open, 85 seconds after stopping. The official report stated the deaths were "... aggravated by evacuation delays caused by a forward right door malfunction and restricted access to the exits."[5]

Colours represent the exit taken by survivors. Red crosses show fatalities.


The incident raised serious air safety concerns relating to survivability, something that prior to 1985 had not been studied in such detail. The Civil Aviation Authority was criticised by some[who?] for not implementing stringent safety regulations earlier.[6]

The swift incursion of the fire into the fuselage and the layout of the aircraft impaired passengers' ability to evacuate, with areas such as the forward galley area becoming a particular bottleneck for escaping passengers.[4](pp135-137) Of those unable to escape, 48 died as a result of incapacitation and subsequently lethal toxic gas and smoke inhalation,[4](pp44-45) some very close to the exits, with six dying from burns.

A large amount of dynamic research into evacuation and cabin and seating layouts was undertaken at Cranfield Institute to try to measure what makes a good evacuation route. This work led to the seat layout adjacent to overwing exits being changed by mandate, and the examination of evacuation requirements relating to the design of galley areas.[citation needed]

The use of smoke hoods or misting systems was also examined[4](pp64-76) although both options were rejected.[citation needed]


Flight 28M is dramatised in the episode "Panic on the Runway" of the Canadian television documentary series Mayday (otherwise known as Air Crash Investigations and Air Emergency with a title of "Manchester Runway Disaster").


The surviving cabin crew - Arthur Bradbury and Joanna Toff - and two members of the Manchester Airport Fire Service - Fireman Samuel Lyttle and Fireman Eric Arthur Westwood - were all awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal, and the two flight attendants who died - Sharon Ford and Jacqui Urbanski - received the same award posthumously. Their collective citation stated in summary:

"Mr. Bradbury, Miss Ford, Miss Toff, and Mrs. Urbanski displayed coolness, outstanding courage and devotion to duty. They remained at their posts and saved many lives. Firemen Lyttle and Westwood also displayed outstanding bravery and disregard for their own safety when they mounted the wing to rescue passengers."[7]

See also[edit]

Similar events[edit]


  1. ^ AAIB report No:8/88 – Boeing 737–236, G-BGJL, at Manchester Airport. 1989. ISBN 0-11-550892-9. Retrieved 23 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "Service held to mark 1985 Manchester air disaster". BBC News. 22 August 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "Jet disaster survivors meet pilot 25 years on". Manchester Evening News. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g AAIB report No:8/88 – Boeing 737–236, G-BGJL, at Manchester Airport. 1989. ISBN 0-11-550892-9. Retrieved 23 July 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "ASN Aircraft accident Boeing 737–236 G-BGJL Manchester". 15 June 2003. Retrieved 23 July 2010. 
  6. ^ "Sir John Dent". The Telegraph. 28 June 2002. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  7. ^ London Gazette, 5 August 1987, page 9973
  • Faith, Nicholas (1998). Black Box:The Final Investigations. United Kingdom: Boxtree. pp. 80–90. ISBN 0-7522-2118-3. 

External links[edit]

External images
Photos of G-BGJL in its older color scheme and named Goldfinch (