Emergency services at both Shannon and Dublin airports were on standby for a jet that declared an emergency over the Atlantic on Saturday however the flight instead overflew Ireland and returned to London.
The crew of British Airways flight BAW-209 reported several issues, both technical and medical, after turning around an routing back towards the Irish coast again.
The flight was en route from London to Miami in Florida with 281 passengers and crew on board and had left Heathrow Airport at 2.20pm.
The Boeing 747-400 jet was almost three hours into its flight when the crew alerted air traffic controllers at the North Atlantic Communications Service centre at Ballygirreen in Co. Clare.
The crew is reported to have issued a ‘Mayday’ call but is known to have transmitted a ‘general emergency’ alert, known as a squawk, on their aircraft’s transponder which identifies a plane on an air traffic controllers radar.
The pilot had declared his intention to divert and land at Shannon where the airports emergency plan was put into action.
At around 5.30pm, three units of the fire brigade from Shannon Town along with ambulances from Ennis and Limerick were sent to stand by at the airport.
Three additional appliances from Ennis were mobilised to a dedicated holding point close to the M18 motorway at Dromoland in case they were required. All services were in place an hour before the plane’s expected arrival at Shannon.
Responding services were told that the crew had declared a Mayday and originally reported smoke in the cabin area. In another update, fire crews were advised that the pilot also reported smoke and fumes in the cockpit.
British Airways’ website also confirmed that the flight would be diverting to Shannon.
Shortly after 6.30pm however, airport and local authority services were stood down and personnel told the plane was instead diverting to Dublin. Emergency services at Dublin had also been put on alert for the emergency landing.
While en route to Dublin, the pilot reported that they also had two medical issues on board.
It’s understood that a young woman fainted while a crew member had cut their mouth. The pilot said they would require medical assistance on arrival in Dublin.
Soon afterwards, emergency crews at Dublin were also stood down while the crew continued instead to overfly Ireland and return to Heathrow Airport.
A British Airways spokesman said: “The aircraft returned to Heathrow as a precaution, due to a suspected technical problem. We apologise to customers for the delay to their journey to Miami. We provided hotel accommodation overnight, and customers continued their journey on Sunday.”