The Media At It Again: Exaggerated Media Reports of BA Engine Failure

Yet another example today of the media providing pointless, and over-exaggerated stories related to aviation. A report has appeared on the Daily Mail website in relation to a British Airways engine failure or engine surge. The problem with these stories is that they print quotes from ill-advised passengers, with no background information or opinions from aviation experts.

A Bristish Airways flight from South Africa to London Heathrow suffered from an unspecified engine problem. Passengers reported seeing flames coming from one of the four engines on the Boeing 747 which lasted for approx 30 seconds. This may have been an engine fire/failure or simply an engine surge (similar to a car backfiring).

If the engine was indeed on fire, warnings would appear in the cockpit and the pilots would use the extinguishers and shut down the engine. The aircraft is designed to fly 100% normally in the event of the loss of one engine. I do not lie when I say, there is nothing to be concerned with here.

The passenger who contacted the Daily Mail went on to complain that the pilots did not make an announcement to calm and reassure the passengers onboard for 45 minutes after the incident. That’s because they are too busy dealing with the problem… The Flight Attendants are the ones who are there to calm, and reassure you…. and yes, we DO KNOW of the situation. If we tell you everything is ok, then everything is ok.

Yes, it is nice to hear from the pilots, but you have to understand that their primary job is to fly the aircraft, and surely this woman agrees that she would prefer them to concentrate on that rather than time out to talk to you. Whether this woman is disgusted or not is not important. Flying the aircraft comes first….

If the Daily Mail had contacted someone who actually knows something about aviation to comment on this story they would have said the same thing, and then readers who have a fear of flying would have a sensible and considered response from someone who knows what they are talking about. Instead, they will just read a story that breeds fear.

The trouble with printing quotes from members of the public is that they tend to exaggerate events. This may be done subconsciously, as it is human nature to do so to a certain degree. An example of this in my opinion is the part that says she could feel the heat coming through the window…. that is highly unlikely for a small fire so far away from the window. In fact I would put money on the fact that this is complete rubbish!

I am not doubting the fact that some passengers may have been concerned as this woman obviously was… but the situation always looks scarier than it is. Flames in darkness will always look much worse than than they actually are.

Further to this, the most important fact is that the pilot continued the flight rather than diverting. In fact, they flew for another 9hrs after the incident. This in itself shows us that it’s not worth talking about… if there was any danger whatsoever, the pilots would have diverted immediately. This woman was obviously scared, and for that reason has contacted the Daily Mail with an inaccurate and highly exaggerated story. Shame on the Daily Mail for bothering to print it, and even more shame for not talking to an aviation expert for a factual opinion!

The link to the article concerned is:

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