Passengers Describe Nightmare on El Al Flight 318

An engine emitted a plume of fire 20 minutes after takeoff from London, with 411 on board. 'We thought we were going to crash.'

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Gil Ronen,

El Al plane
El Al plane
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Passengers on El Al flight 318 that took off from London to Israel Wednesday had a nightmarish experience 20 minutes after the takeoff, when the plane was at an altitude of 26,000 feet.

A thud was heard from the direction of the right wing of the Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet. Immediately afterward, the engine on the extreme right began losing power, and a burnt smell began to be felt inside the plane. Passengers saw a plume of fire coming out of the damaged engine. 

There were 411 people on board, including the crew. "It was a nightmare and a horror. We thought we were going to crash," said one of them after the ordeal.

The plane's pilot, Ilan Margalit, 58, a former IAF pilot, immediately asked the control tower in London for permission to return to Heathrow Airport and land there. A short time later, the plane was back on the ground and the passengers were safe. The pilot said there was never any real danger to the passengers because the plane can fly even with two intact engines.