Chopper scrambled after fire alert

AN emergency operation was put into action after a passenger jet issued a Mayday call while in the skies above East Anglia.The British Airways plane with 68 passengers on board declared an emergency just 20 minutes after taking off from Heathrow Airport.

AN emergency operation was put into action after a passenger jet issued a Mayday call while in the skies above East Anglia.

The British Airways plane with 68 passengers on board declared an emergency just 20 minutes after taking off from Heathrow Airport.

Cabin crews suspected an electrical fault in equipment on board the jet, prompting the captain to issue a Mayday call.

One report suggested a fire had broken out in the cockpit of the plane as it approached the seaside resort of Clacton.

An air sea rescue helicopter from Wattisham Airfield was scrambled and sent out to meet the Boeing 737 jet as the emergency services on the ground tracked the plane's progress above the skies of Essex.

Flight Sergeant Martin Teague, from Wattisham Airfield, said: "It put out a Mayday at Chelmsford. All the occupants were on full oxygenation, which suggested to us there was a full decompression on board.

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The emergency services tracked the progress of BA flight number 882, bound for Kiev, as it returned to Heathrow Airport and made a safe landing yesterday afternoon.

"We were sent as a precaution, just in case, and then we came home because it got down safely," said Flt Sgt Teague.

A British Airways spokeswoman said last night the captain had declared an emergency on board the plane after the cabin crew had suspected an electrical problem – but she could not give any further details.

"It was 21 minutes into the flight when it turned back. It departed Heathrow at 2.30pm and landed at 3.27pm," she added.

"The north runway was closed for a while as a result when they came back. The emergency services weren't required, but they were on hand as a precaution."

The spokeswoman dismissed the report of a fire on board the jet and she denied the passengers had been put on oxygen.

She added: "The captain declared an emergency because it's standard procedure if there's a suspected problem to secure a priority landing.

"We err on the side of caution. Safety is always our top priority. That's why we brought the aircraft back."

The spokeswoman said the aircraft would undergo a thorough inspection and the 68 passengers who were on board would be given seats on today's flight.

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