The Boeing 747 was carrying 411 passengers and crew at the time of the incident, and the plane had reached 26,000 feet when a “bang” was heard on the right wing and the number four engine began to fail.
The smell of burning wafted into the cabin, according to reports.
Captain Ilan Margalit, 58, told the Globes newspaper that a flight attendant informed him flames were seen in the engine.
He said: “We immediately took fire suppressing measures in the engine, something we’ve been trained an uncountable number of times in the simulator. We did it from memory, without the need to consult the manual.
“These actions included shutting down the engine, closing the engine’s fuel line, and pulling the fire suppressing handle, which arms the fire suppressant bottles.
“Since there was no indication of fire in the engine, the bottles were not used.”
Margalit, who has been working for El Al for 17 years, called the control tower at Heathrow and declared an emergency.
He told the Globe: “I called Mayday, Mayday, Mayday to the London control tower and immediately turned around to land at Heathrow. We were back on the ground within 15 minutes.
“Although this happens to a pilot once in a lifetime, the plane was not in danger. I could have continued to fly to Tel Aviv on three engines, but we’re educated at El Al not to take any risk.
Safety is paramount. I declared an emergency, not because the plane was in danger, but because to get the full attention of the Heathrow control tower and all the quiet to fly without disturbances.”
Mr Margalit added that he kept the passengers and crew calm with constant explanations of what was happening, adding that out of the 411 passengers and crew, there was only one panicked traveller.
He said that a plane may be in danger when it loses both engines on the same side, but added: “We’re trained for that too.”
Jul 6, 2012
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