A Tibet Airlines plane aborted the takeoff at the Chongqing Airport in China and veered off the runway, catching fire with heavy smoke and flames pouring from the left side of the aircraft.

Zee Media Bureau

A Tibet Airlines plane with 122 onboard caught fire and skidded off the runway after an aborted takeoff in the China’s southwestern city of Chongqing on Thursday morning. A subsidiary of Air China, the Tibet Airlines was operating an Airbus A319 and was about to take off from the Chongqing Airport for Nyingchi in Tibet, when the incident happened. The aircraft is said to be a 10 year old plane, bearing B-6426 registration code.

“Tibet Airlines flight 9833, an Airbus A319-115, was damaged beyond repair when it was involved in a takeoff accident at Chongqing-Jiangbei International Airport (CKG/ZUCK), China. Preliminary information indicates the aircraft aborted the takeoff and veered off the runway. A post crash fire ensued, but all occupants were able to exit the aircraft,” noted Aviation Safety Network.

The crash came less than two months after the deadly crash of a China Eastern Airlines plane led the country’s aviation regulator to launch a safety drive. As per the initial statement by the airline, all 113 passengers and 9 crew members are evacuated and safe, with only minor injuries. However, some reports suggest that 40 people are hospitalized.

Over 40 people who sustained minor injuries have been hospitalised, China Global Television Network (CGTN) reported. Unverified video on social media show the Tibet Airlines plane, with heavy smoke and flames pouring from the left side of the aircraft as passengers and crew walked away.

People could be seen running from the plane after escaping via an evacuation slide at the rear door. The aircraft was about to depart for Nyingchi in Tibet when the fire started. The fire was later controlled by the emergency services at the airport. 

The Airbus A319 is one of the smallest versions of the A320 family and is powered by CFM56 engines from CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric and Safran, according to Airfleets.net.

Tibet Airlines is a regional airline based in Lhasa. It has a fleet of 39 planes, including 28 A319s. What forced pilots to abort the takeoff is still unknown. 

On March 21, a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 with 132 people on board crashed in mountains in southern China, killing everyone on board. So far there have been few clues about the cause of the accident.