BY JOHN FENG
A passenger plane was forced to make an emergency landing in central China on Tuesday after a fire alarm in its cargo hold was set off mid-flight.
Flight AQ1305, operated by Chinese low-cost airliner 9 Air, was en route to Yichang, Hubei, from Guangzhou, Guangdong, when the incident occurred. It touched down in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, at 10:27 a.m. local time, the airline said in a statement posted to Weibo, China’s main social media service.
Cell phone footage carried by Chinese news outlets showed the lone passenger jet having come to a stop in the middle of a designated runway instead of being directed to the airport apron. Evacuation slides were inflated at the front and back of the airplane, and passengers can be seen leaving the aircraft in quick succession.
In its statement, 9 Air said a total of 105 passengers and cabin crew were safely evacuated onto the tarmac at Changsha Huanghua International Airport on March 1. No injures were reported during the incident. The budget airline said it was cooperating with local civil aviation authorities to investigate the cause of the fire alarm in its cargo hold.
A man who was identified only by his surname, Hua, told local news outlet Houlang that the crew announced a “technical malfunction” before the plane was diverted to Changsha. “Then they inflated the emergency slides. We still didn’t know what had happened,” he said.
An image circulated on Weibo, which Newsweek couldn’t independently verify, showed a pink suitcase that looked to have been damaged by fire. Unconfirmed media reports said the luggage had been removed from the flight in question, and that a lithium ion battery was suspected of having caused the blaze.
Batteries including power banks—widely used for smartphones and tablets—are among the items banned from hold luggage due to their sensitivity to collision, physical pressure and high temperatures, according to China’s civil aviation regulations, which warn of a possible short circuit, smoke and fire.
It was unclear whether the aircraft itself—a Boeing 737—was being assessed for additional fire damage following the incident. The CACC said it was still investigating the incident and would disclose related information at a later time.
Operator 9 Air said it provided passengers with a meal before dispatching a replacement flight to Changsha. The aircraft landed at 2:07 p.m. local time and was being inspected ahead of takeoff. AQ1305 was originally expected at Yichang Sanxia Airport at 11 a.m. that morning.