Pakistan plane aborts take-off as fumes fill cabin

A Pakistan International Airlines jet bound for Saudi Arabia with 508 people on board was forced to abort take-off Thursday when fumes engulfed a terrified cabin, officials and passengers said. The Boeing 747 on flight PK 3539 carrying pilgrims to the Saudi city of Jeddah taxied towards the runway in the southern city of Multan despite concerns from passengers. "When we boarded the plane, we felt a strange smell and smoke inside. We complained to the crew but they ignored it and told us it was because of roasted meals," Shamshad Begum, a female passenger, told AFP. "The plane went for take-off but stopped minutes later when passengers protested strongly and there was chaos," she said. PIA spokesman Sultan Hassan said there were 493 pilgrims bound for the holy sites in Mecca and Medina and 15 crew on board. They were re-routed on another flight that finally took off nine hours later. "The hydraulic system of the plane failed just before take-off and its fumes came inside the cabin," Hassan told AFP. "We off-loaded the passengers and sent them on another plane to Jeddah at 12.00pm." Local media has been rife with horror stories of technical faults and chronic delays blighting the ailing national carrier in recent weeks. Last month, bomb alerts forced two PIA planes to land at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport and in Kuala Lumpur, but no bombs were found. On July 28, 2010, an Airbus 321 passenger jet crashed in Islamabad while coming in to land, killing 152 people on board. The jet was operated by private company Airblue and it was the worst aviation tragedy on Pakistani soil. PIA operates special flights every year to transport thousands of pilgrims to holy cities of Mecca and Medina for the Hajj. This year, the company has dedicated seven jets to transport passengers to Saudi Arabia. The airline, which has been on the verge of going bust, provides the only direct services from Pakistan to Britain, Europe and North America. by Lachlan Carmichael (c) 2011 AFP
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Source: AFP
Date: Oct 20, 2011