Russian plane engine catches fire on Phuket runway

PHOTO: A Russian plane caught fire while taking off in Phuket. (via

A Russian tourist plane bound for Moscow faced a terrifying moment when its engine caught fire before takeoff at Phuket International Airport. The 309 passengers and 12 crew on board the 26 year old Boeing 767-306ER, operated by Azur Air, were forced to evacuate the aircraft.

Footage from the scene shows flames bursting from the right engine of the Russian plane before takeoff was stopped. Passengers reported hearing a loud bang and said the plane was close to taking off at 120 miles per hour when the problem arose.

The incident took place at around 4.30pm on Saturday and resulted in chaotic flight delays that affected as many as 47 flights out of Phuket.

According to the Phuket Info Centre, the fire started in one of the engines, followed by two explosions or at least the sound of two explosions. The Russian pilot quickly activated the fire suppression system, cutting the fuel supply to the engine.

However, the rapid braking caused the brakes to heat up and smoke to rise from the wheels, resulting in some of the tires bursting. Firefighters arrived at the scene immediately.

The Russian airline, Azur Air, released a statement reassuring that all their passengers were looked after following the engine fire and that technicians are already analysing what went wrong.

“Airline technical specialists have already started work to eliminate the malfunctions. Passengers of flight ZF-3604 will be provided with a hotel, hot meals and soft drinks while waiting for departure to Moscow.”

Many were quick to blame the engine fire incident on a lack of maintenance for Russian aircraft due to Western sanctions imposed on the country following their invasion of Ukraine. Some passengers onboard the flight were families of men hiding from Putin’s mobilization decree. Others fled Russia during the war but were now returning after running out of money abroad.

Amid suspicions that Russian airlines are cutting corners with safety, with some saying they were “cannibalising” other planes for parts, the Head of the Russian Federal Agency for Air Transport, commented that Western-made airliners can be used until 2030.

“I am confident that it has not become more dangerous to fly – and it has nothing to do with the presence or absence of original spare parts. [Cannibalisation charges] appeared at the behest of those who have never worked in civil aviation and who are unaware of the fact that the practice of interchanging serviceable spare parts from jet to jet has always been widespread, even during the Soviet times.”

The incident is currently under investigation to determine the cause of the engine explosion aboard the Russian plane. Despite the traumatic experience, passengers are determined to continue their vacation, with one passenger saying, “The vacation continues.”

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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