An unusual aircraft accident

In February 2006, a Falcon 20 executive jet made an emergency landing at Kiel-Holtenau airport in Germany, during which it ran off the runway and was severely damaged.

The reason for the emergency landing had been given as a ‘fire on board’.  Now the accident report (published only in January this year, for some unknown reason) has provided details of what must have been a chaotic situation on board.  Briefly, the air hostess (a very inexperienced individual with minimal training) picked up an emergency flare in the galley.  Not speaking very good English, she wasn’t able to read the label;  and in the darkened interior of the aircraft, she didn’t properly identify the object in her hands.  Thinking it was a roll of plastic wrap (!), she attempted to open it.

This (inevitably) ignited the flare, filling the entire aircraft interior with smoke and starting a fire at the base of the galley.  The pilots managed to descend from their cruising altitude of 38,000 feet and land the aircraft, although the report notes several instances of confusion and incoherent responses from all concerned.  (Personally, if I were at 38,000 feet and found myself suddenly surrounded by smoke, with an ominous red glow at my feet, I’d be a bit incoherent too!)

The pilots failed to activate the aircraft’s reverse thrusters when they landed, due to a misunderstanding over the length of the runway.  (I’m not going to make any bad puns about how the plane ‘flared’ for landing, either!)  If they’d used reverse thrust, they’d have been able to stop safely, but without them the aircraft couldn’t brake fast enough.  It ran off the end of the runway and down a steep slope (visible in the first photograph below), almost hitting a metal structure supporting runway lights.

The emergency flare, of course, should never have been in the galley in the first place!  The whole episode appears quite amusing in hindsight . . . but I’m willing to bet for those involved at the time, it was anything but!  (I was also amused this evening, after reading the accident report, to find myself stopping to double-check the roll of plastic wrap as I was packing away the remains of supper!)



  1. What were the pilots thinking?!!! I would have activated everything that could possibly slow that thing down. And stopped it right smack in the middle of the runway! You want fast emergency response, take it out of action.
    And beat feet while they do their job.

  2. I'm told by a buddy who served in the Sandbox that plastic wrap is good for waterproofing bandages. I hadn't thought of it, but it stands to reason that if it's sterile enough to use on food, it should be good on the outside of a wound dressing.

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