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Faulty light sends 747 to Naha emergency landing

Date Posted: 2004-06-10

Flight 717, a Japan Air Lines Boeing 747, was enroute from Tokyo Narita to Bangkok Saturday when the emergency alarms sounded.

“SOS,we’ve got afire on board,” the pilot radioed. “we’re heading to Naha Airport.”

On the ground, reports are that Naha Airport was in near panic, with 11 fire engines, cars, ambulances and helicopters scrambling to be ready. As the aircraft touched down at 1:40pm, the fire engines surrounded the plane.

Passengers were evacuated before firemen went onboard to find the fire.

“There was a little accident inside the luggage compartment light, which had connected the wrong way somehow”, said a fire official. Engineers changed the parts, and after 3 1/2 hours the flight resumed.

No problem whatsoever, said airline officials, but a passenger didn’t agree. “There was some fire and sparks, and then smoke came inside and you could smell something burning too.” Smoke was described as “very strong” and “very black” by passengers who became sick from the odors.

The air crew had just finished lunch and was collecting empty trays when the alarms triggered. Many passengers described the lighting flickers and sparks, and then the smoke. “There was some big voice coming from behind the plane. I thought I’m going to die,” said one.

Still, crew says the 230 passengers behaved bravely and relaxed as they headed toward Naha.

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