LAS VEGAS (AP) — Federal investigators will be working through the weekend and for the next several days combing through a British Airways Boeing 777 aircraft that stopped short of taking off from Las Vegas Tuesday when its left engine caught fire, sending passengers running.
National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said Friday that a team of investigators in Las Vegas would be collecting information about the plane and its left engine into early next week, taking photos and notes before the engine is removed and shipped to an off-site facility to be fully deconstructed.
British Airways flight 2276 was on a McCarran International Airport runway bound for London when the crew screeched the plane to a halt as flames billowed from the left engine. The ordeal, from the fire's start to its end, lasted five minutes and the airplane's crew and airport firefighters have been lauded for their quick action. All 157 passengers and 13 crew members survived with minor injuries in some cases including bumps, bruises and scrapes from escaping down the plane's emergency slides on Tuesday afternoon.
In preliminary findings, investigators said pieces of the jet engine, several 7-to-8-inch fragments of the high-pressure compressor, were recovered from the runway, and the casing that shields the compressor had been breached.
The cause of the engine failure and resulting fire has not been determined.
"This is a highly unusual event to have an engine failure of this magnitude," said John Cox, an aviation safety consultant who spent 23 years as a U.S. Airways pilot. Cox has said the aircraft, a 777-200 model, has a remarkable safety record.
The plane has been towed to an area of the airport's tarmac usually used for overflow aircraft parking.
A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration arrived at the airport Wednesday and representatives from the Boeing Company, the maker of the engines GE Aviation, British Airways and the British Civil Aviation Authority are assisting.
Las Vegas' airport is the ninth-busiest in the U.S. and had nearly 43 million passengers last year. The airport has been taking steps to accommodate more international travelers seeking direct flights to Europe and Asia, including adding new gates to accommodate wide-body double-decker jets.