American Airlines flight from London to Charlotte evacuated when fumes fill cabin

Charlotte-bound flight evacuated in London

American Airlines Flight 731 was evacuated at London's Heathrow Airport after smoke filled the cabin.
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American Airlines Flight 731 was evacuated at London's Heathrow Airport after smoke filled the cabin.

Passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 731 from London to Charlotte evacuated the plane Sunday after smoke filled the cabin.

As passengers waited for the plane to take off, gray smoke filled the cabin, said passenger Doug Drew, a Myers Park resident who was traveling with his wife, Theresa, and 18-year-old son, Alexander.

“It wasn’t like a black smoke,” said Drew. “It was a chemical, toxic-smelling smoke.”

Two rear slides were deployed by flight attendants and one by a passenger, American Airlines confirmed. About 25 people escaped on inflatable slides, a statement from the airline said.

The flight was canceled and accommodations were being made to get passengers to their destinations. Some of the 277 passengers and 12 crew members were treated for smoke inhalation, the airline’s statement said.

One of passengers treated was Drew.

The first signs that something might be wrong came after the passengers and crew boarded the plane, Drew said.

Takeoff was delayed for about an hour, and the pilot apologized, Drew said. The pilot explained that the Airbus 330 had arrived from Charlotte with mechanical issues but that a crew was working on it, Drew recalled. The plane had been scheduled to arrive back in Charlotte at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Once smoke seeped into the cabin, Drew’s wife and son were able to get off the plane quickly, he said. Drew had been asleep with his shoes off, so it took longer for him to gather his things and exit, he said.

The pilot apparently was not immediately aware of the problem and at one point told the flight crew to stop the evacuation, Drew said. The flight attendants responded by briefly blocking the exit when Drew’s wife reached the door, saying “there is no reason to evacuate,” according to Drew.

Once the pilot was aware of the smoke, the evacuation continued, Drew said.

American Airlines described the events aboard the flight in a statement released the same day.

American Airlines Flight 731 London-Heathrow (LHR) to Charlotte (CLT) experienced smoke in the cabin while still on the ground in LHR,” the statement said. “Three slides were deployed on the aircraft and approximately 25 passengers deplaned via the slides.

“The rest of the passengers and crew safely deplaned via the jet bridge. A small number of the passengers and crew were seen by medical personnel but no significant injuries have been reported.”