Tibet Airlines Plane Bursts Into Flames As Passengers Flee, Video Shows

Dramatic images have emerged of a passenger jet ablaze at an airport in southwest China following an aborted takeoff early on Thursday.

The country's official news service Xinhua said 113 passengers and nine crew were evacuated from the aircraft, Tibet Airlines Flight TV9833, after it had veered off the runway at Chongqing's Jiangbei International Airport.

As yet unverified social media footage showed people fleeing on the tarmac as the Airbus A319 burns in the background, releasing large plumes of black smoke into the sky. In other videos, firetrucks are seen hosing down the wreckage from all sides.

Images later showed firefighters and safety inspectors surrounding the plane, which appeared to have sustained heavy fire damage at the front end of the fuselage.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said 36 injured people were taken to a local hospital for treatment. The airport's remaining two runways have since resumed takeoffs and landings while an investigation continues, a CAAC statement said.

China Airplane Catches Fire After Aborted Takeoff
Firefighters surround the burned fuselage of a passenger plane which caught fire after veering off a runway in Chongqing, China on May 12, 2022. China’s civil aviation authority said 36 of the plane’s 122 passengers and crew had suffered minor injuries. AFP via Getty Images/CNS
China Airplane Catches Fire After Aborted Takeoff
Firefighters surround the front fuselage area of a passenger plane that caught fire in Chongqing, China on May 12, 2022. Tibet Airlines said the aircraft had been bound for the city of Nyingchi in Tibet. CNS/AFP via Getty Images

Tibet Airlines, which is a subsidiary of Air China, said the incident happened at 8:09 a.m. local time. TV9833 was bound for the city of Nyingchi in Tibet, the airline said.

"According to the flight crew, an abnormality was discovered with the aircraft while taking off," a CAAC statement said. "The takeoff was aborted according to protocol, following which the aircraft veered off the runway and the engine caught fire after scraping the ground."

On Weibo, China's main social media service, one image showed inflatable evacuation slides having been deployed at middle and rear doors on the left side of the plane. However, a video originally shared on Douyin—the Chinese version of TikTok—showed the evacuation had already begun before the plane caught fire.

In the 10-second clip, some of the 122 passengers and crew slide to safety in front of the left wing, which begins smoking and eventually bursts into flames. The footage is thought to have been filmed by someone who had escaped the plane moments earlier.

Other images of the aftermath of the incident show the Airbus A319 missing both engines. One picture appeared to show the engines on the ground next to the tarmac. At least two pieces of landing gear were also visible.

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Thursday's accident comes less than two months after the deadly crash of China Eastern Airlines Flight MU5735 in China's southern region of Guangxi. On March 21, air traffic controllers lost contact with the Boeing 737 over Wuzhou, after which a security camera captured the plane diving steeply and crashing into the mountainside.

CAAC investigators said the impact caused the airliner to disintegrate and triggered a forest fire. All 123 passengers and nine crew were killed, they said. A search team combing the debris managed to recover both "black boxes" from the scene toward the end of March.

China Airplane Catches Fire After Aborted Takeoff
Tibet Airlines Flight 9833 caught fire following an aborted takeoff in Chongqing, China on May 12, 2022. A statement from the Civil Aviation Administration of China said an abnormality was discovered with the aircraft during takeoff. Weibo

An April 20 report said the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder had been sent to Washington for further analysis. Both had been damaged during the crash, which continues to puzzle authorities.

The Boeing jet was in airworthy condition, and MU5735 was operated by an experienced crew, said the report. No abnormalities were detected in the conversations between the crew and air traffic controllers before the flight deviated from its intended course while flying in good weather.