British Airtours Flight 28M

British Airtours Flight 28M
British Airtours Flight 28M

CGI of British Airtours Flight 28M with one of its two engines on fire.
Accident summary
Date 22 August 1985
Type Engine fire on ground
Site 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 (129 + 2 infants)
Crew 6
Injuries 15 (serious)
Fatalities 54 Initially 1 After (53 passengers + 2 crew)
Survivors 82
Aircraft type Boeing 737–236
Aircraft name River Orrin
Operator British Airtours
Tail number G-BGJL
Flight origin Manchester Airport
Destination Corfu International Airport

British Airtours Flight 28M was an international passenger flight on 22 August 1985 which originated from Manchester International Airport's Runway 24 in Manchester, England en-route to Corfu International Airport on the Greek island of Corfu. 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 the peak of the holiday season, most of the passengers were holidaymakers.

At 06:12 BST, during the takeoff phase, Captain Peter Terrington and First Officer Brian Love 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. As the plane stopped, the crew discovered that the No. 1 engine was on fire.

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, creating 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.[1] 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.[2]

Following on from this, the forward section of the can was ejected from the engine, fracturing a fuel tank access panel and allowing jet fuel to flow out onto the hot engine exhaust. Combined with the fuel being fed to the now damaged engine, this ultimately sparked the 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. However, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch found these repairs by welding were unsatisfactory in ensuring safe operation. Therefore, they likely contributed to the final severe cracking which led to the accident.

The procedures that were in place at the time also contributed to making matters worse. Thinking a tyre had burst and following standard operating procedure at that time, the flight crew braked slowly and cleared the runway. The slow braking of the aircraft allowed the fire to spread and shortened evacuation time. Since this incident, all flight crew now check wind direction before making their decision which direction to turn. It is also standard procedure for ATC to advise the crew of wind direction and speed in the event of fire on board and aircraft.

The surviving cabin crew (Arthur Bradbury and Joanna Toff) and two members of the Manchester Airport Fire Service were awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for their individual bravery, and the two flight attendants who died in the incident (Sharon Ford and Jacqui Ubanski) were also awarded the same honour posthumously for their devotion to duty and bravery.

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

Impact on air safety

The incident raised serious air safety concerns relating to survivability, something that prior to 1985 had not been studied in such detail.

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. Of those unable to escape, 48 died as a result of incapacitation and subsequently lethal toxic gas and smoke, some very close to the exits, with six dying through burns.

A large amount of dynamic research into evacuation and cabin and seating layouts was carried 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.

The use of smoke hoods or misting systems were also examined although both were rejected.


The Flight 28M is dramatised in the episode "Manchester Runway Disaster" of the Canadian television documentary series Mayday (Air Crash Investigations, Air Emergency). The episode shows an inaccurate sketch of the 737 escape routes.[3]

See also


  • Faith, Nicholas (1998). Black Box:The Final Investigations. United Kingdom: Boxtree. pp. 80–90. ISBN 0-7522-2118-3. 

External links

External images
Photos of G-BGJL in its older color scheme, when named Goldfinch –

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