Topic: Feel safe?
A British Airways pilot was forced to make an emergency landing after two passengers carried a five-litre can of petrol onto a packed London-bound flight as hand luggage.
The fuel, enough to blow up the airliner, was taken on board the Boeing 737 flight at Naples after the pair, believed to be Irish musicians, walked openly through security checks.
The alarm was raised less than half an hour after flight BA2607 left Italy at 10.15am yesterday, bound for Gatwick, with 132 mostly British passengers. As the plane took off petrol started leaking out of the container, which had been put on the floor at the men's feet.
Cabin crew alerted the captain, who immediately decided to abort the flight and landed at Rome airport, where the two men were arrested.
Today BA was conducting a major investigation into how security systems at Naples failed to register the plastic can as a danger and no security staff intervened.
The astonishing incident came as security was tightened in London in the build-up to the anniversary tomorrow of 11 September. The two men apparently did not realise they were doing anything wrong and told police they used the petrol to fuel a portable generator for their electric guitars. Chris Yates, Jane's Civil Aviation security editor, said: "Petrol is an explosive fluid. You just open the can, ignite the fumes and the whole thing goes up.
"The dangers are obvious. Anything that goes off in a passenger cabin would cause a rupture in the skin of the aircraft, substantial damage and then potentially bring it down."
The flight had been due to arrive in London at 2.10pm, but many passengers did not arrive until 10 hours later as they were put on board other flights from Rome.
The BA aircraft was grounded at Rome while the spilt petrol was dealt with. Melvyn Searle, 49, a food company managing director from Newcastle, was on the flight with wife Denise, 40. He described their ordeal as " terrifying" when they finally arrived at Heathrow at 10.30 last night.
Mr Searle said: "We saw the two Irish men queueing up and they clearly had a big can of petrol with them. It was a jerry can, about a foot and a half high and a foot wide. They were at the back of the plane and had it by their feet and when the plane took off it started leaking."
He added: "When the stewardesses smelled the petrol they started looking out of the window to see if the engines were on fire. Then the captain went on the intercom and told us there was a 'problem with fuel' so we had to stop at Rome. You can imagine how much that scares people when you are thousands of feet up in the air."
Mrs Searle said: "When the captain came down to speak to his staff after they had been taken off he looked as white as a sheet".
A British Airways spokesman said: "We don't know how they managed to get on. We are talking to the airport authorities and looking at our own procedures."
A Foreign Office spokesman said two British nationals had been arrested and one had been charged by Italian police with breaking air transport regulations. Both have now been released.