A fire alarm activated by a consignment of vegetables forced the crew of a transatlantic passenger jet to declare an emergency and divert to Shannon Airport.
It was the third time this year that a cargo of organic material forced flights to divert to Shannon following fire alarm activations.
Yesterday, the crew Air France flight AF-733 declared a ‘mayday’ when they were about 800 kilometres south west of Shannon.
The Boeing 747-400 was was travelling from Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic to Paris with 142 passengers and 12 crew. The jet has the capacity carry over 420 people.
The crew made contact with the the Irish Aviation Authority’s (IAA) North Atlantic Communications Service centre at Ballygirreen in Co. Clare declaring a mayday and requesting permission to divert to the nearest suitable airport.
The crew confirmed that they had received a fire alarm in the forward cargo hold and wished to landed as soon as possible.
Authorities at Shannon Airport were alerted to the emergency about an hour before the flight was expected to arrive.
Local authority fire crews, the HSE’s National Ambulance Service and gardaí were also alerted to the incident.
Units of the fire brigade from Shannon Town along with a fleet of ambulances from Ennis and Limerick raced to the airport. Two additional units of the fire brigade from Ennis were mobilised to a designated holding point at Dromoland adjacent to the M18 motorway.
The Irish Coast Guard and RNLI were also alerted to the emergency. The Shannon based rescued helicopter, Rescue 1-1-5, stood by outside it’s hangar with its engines running in case it was required to evacuate injured passengers to hospital.
Tthe Waterford based Irish Coast Guard helicopter was placed on standby at Cork Airport as a precaution.
The Kilrush RNLI lifeboat was also alerted an launched at around 9.30am remaining off shore at it’s station in the event they were required.
The flight touched down safely at 9.55am and taxied directly to the terminal building with emergency crews in pursuit. The crew confirmed however that fire personnel would not be able to open the cargo hold door until all passengers had disembarked from the aircraft.
After reaching the terminal, passengers were asked to leave the aircraft by portable stairs via a single door. No airbridge was used for the disembarkation.
Meanwhile, airport fire crews checked the jet’s fuselage for signs of scorching as other personnel used thermal imaging cameras to check for any heat spots in the cargo hold.
Once all passengers had left the plane, fire officers carefully opened the cargo door with extinguishers at the ready.
The plane’s own onboard extinguishers had activated and were still discharging fire suppressant when fire crews boarded.
No fire was found on board and it’s now believed that heat generated by a consignment of peppers activated the jet’s sensitive fire system and the automated onboard extinguishers.
A replacement aircraft has been flown in to take the passengers onto Paris.
Last September, a cargo jet carrying a consignment of flowers made an emergency landing at Shannon after the crew reported a possible fire on board.
The Atlas Air Boeing 747-400 freighter was en route from Florida to the Netherlands at the time. It’s believed the heat from the flowers activated the jet’s fire system.
In March, another jet carrying flowers from the US to the Netherlands diverted to Shannon after reporting a similar issue.
Cargolux flight CV-765, also a Boeing 747-400 freighter, was enroute from Puerto Rico, to Maastricht at the time.
In July 2012, a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight diverted to Shannon after a series of ‘small explosions’ was heard on board.
Flight 661, a Boeing 747-400 Combi jet, which can accommodate both passengers and cargo on the same deck, was en route from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Houston in Texas.
The flight landed safely and several pallets of bottles were removed from the jet.