Air France plane turns back to Beijing after “bang,” burning smell in cabin

An Air France flight from Beijing to Paris returned to Beijing shortly after takeoff this morning due to what the airline describes as a “technical fault,” but Chinese media outlets are saying was an explosion and fire in the passenger cabin.

Air France said that the crew of flight AF393 flying from Beijing Capital International Airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport September 18, 2021 decided to return to Beijing according to the aircraft manufacturer’s operating instructions and the company’s instructions due to technical faults 14 minutes after takeoff.

Passengers who were on board the Boeing B777 aircraft are describing the technical fault as an explosion accompanied by black smoke, and a burning smell at the rear of the cabin according to Beijing Daily.

The Beijing Daily report quoted a passenger, Mrs Chen, who said that the flight, originally scheduled to depart at 2:30 am did not takeoff until 3:45 am.

Passengers reported that an abnormal noise was heard all the way during the climb. One passenger described the sound as a “whistling sound similar to wind blowing through the window.”

Then at around 3:50 am there was the sound of a “bang” like something exploded, with “small flying flakes” and other things visible to the eye in the air accompanied by a strong burning smell.

ventilation panel on airplane seat
Picture: Beijing Evening News.

Some people ran from the rear of the plane screaming, and a flight attendant took something that looked like a fire extinguisher to deal with the incident, the report says.

Passengers said the plane circled at a low altitude for a while before landing back at the Chinese capital shortly after 4:00 am.

Picture: Southern Metropolitan.

According to several passengers, firefighters, ambulance personnel and police cars were seen on the ground after the plane landed, but they did not board the plane. After waiting on the plane for about two hours, the passengers were transported by shuttle bus to the transfer rest area of ​​the Capital Airport to wait for a replacement flight.

At 9:00 am, passengers were informed via an airport broadcast that Air France will provide a replacement plane expected to take off at 5:30 pm. 

“However, the airline has not explained the cause of the accident. Most of the planes are foreign students. Everyone is facing the problem of subsequent flight transfers. I hope the airline can quickly give further solutions.” A passenger told Beijing Daily.

damage panel on Air France passenger plane.
Picture: Beijing Evening News.
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