Almost 150 people were aboard an Aer Lingus flight forced to make an emergency landing at Cork Airport yesterday, with over-wing exits and slides being used to get everyone off the aircraft in as short a time as possible.
The flight left Cork for Heathrow at 12.46pm. However, a full emergency response was put in place after the pilot declared an emergency reporting smoke in the cockpit.
Cork City and County Fire Services as well as HSE ambulances were waiting for the plane to land. Coastguard vessels in the flight path were also put on standby in case they were needed to respond.
The plane landed safely at 1.23pm. The emergency slide chutes were deployed and the emergency exit windows over the wings were opened however most passengers exited using the stairs.
A spokesperson for Cork Airport would not speculate as to what caused the emergency although there were reports of smoke or fumes on the plane.
The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has sent a team of investigators to Cork Airport in response to the emergency descent and landing.
"A preliminary examination of the aircraft is now underway to determine the level and extent of any investigation that may be undertaken by the AAIU.”
One passenger aboard the flight was UCC Professor Barry O'Sullivan.
He told the Evening Echo the incident was dramatic but Aer Lingus crew dealt with the situation very well despite the aircraft not feeling "quite right" once it turned around.
“There was a bit of panic when it came back as there were lots of emergency services around and so on,” he said.
“The flight had been delayed by about 45 minutes and we were about a quarter of an hour to 20 minutes into the flight and the captain announced that there was a technical fault so we needed to return.
“I travel a lot and the plane certainly didn't feel quite right on the way back. It was a little rougher than normal but there was nobody panicking, which is good," he added.
Professor O'Sullivan said the presence of emergency services on the runway spooked some passengers but they were oblivious to the problem in flight.
“There were no reported injuries, thankfully,” Cork Airport spokesperson Kevin Cullinane said. “A full technical investigation of the aircraft is now going to happen. The safety and wellbeing of passengers is in everyone’s mind at a time like this but thankfully the aircraft landed safely.
“We train for situations like this that you hope will never happen but when it does happen it is good to know the response worked and everything was in readiness for the return of the aircraft.”
Aer Lingus said passengers were cared for by their guest services team inside the terminal building and were brought to London on the next available flights.