Smoke-Filled British Air A321 Makes Emergency Landing In Spain


Nineteen passengers were injured after British Airways Flight 422 made an emergency landing at its intended destination of Valencia, Spain, on Monday after smoke filled the cabin. The Telegraph is reporting that the Airbus A321 was on approach to Valencia when the “technical issue” occurred. The passengers were evacuated via the emergency slides. 

Other news reports say the Airbus had a fire in one of the engines that had extinguished itself by the time the jetliner had landed. 

According to British Air, ”Flight BA422 from Heathrow to Valencia experienced a technical issue on its landing approach into Valencia. All our customers were evacuated safely by our crew and met by the airport’s emergency services. There were 175 customers on board the flight, with six cabin crew and two pilots. Three customers were taken to hospital as a precaution and have since been discharged. The safety of our customers and crew is always our highest priority. In addition to our team on site, other British Airways team members have arrived in Valencia to help our customers and our local airport partners with anything they need.”

Passengers reported that the pilots were able to land wearing oxygen masks but that the cabin masks were not deployed. 

The British pilots union, BALPA, praised the professional job done by the pilots and crew. Brian Strutton, BALPA General Secretary said, “The pilots and crew appear to have done an excellent and highly professional job of getting this aircraft safely onto the ground in very difficult circumstances, and safely evacuating all the passengers with no reported serious injuries. We believe the pilots landed this aircraft wearing full oxygen masks and goggles which is extremely challenging.”

Noting passengers’ complaints that the oxygen masks had not deployed, BALPA noted that “this is because they, unlike pilot and cabin crew oxygen systems, are not designed to be used in smoke events as they mix the oxygen supply with the ambient air. Passenger oxygen masks are for use during decompression events.”

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  1. I recently retired with over 11,000 hours in the Airbus 319,320,321. I pushed very hard for the last 3 years for a simple memory item to remove smoke from the cabin and cockpit. The memory item I created could be accomplished in less than 30 seconds. British 422 was lucky the smoke was not toxic or you could have had hundreds of dead in the cabin. Only the cockpit masks are designed for smoke protection. The Captain upon declaring an emergency has the authority to deviate from all procedures in order to stabilize the situation. Therefore the Captain is not required to do a checklist if it is inappropriate for the situation. With smoke in any plane the essence of smoke removal is descend , depressurize and open the ram air valve which gets fresh outside air flowing into the plane. Opening the ram air valve will also open the outflow valve.
    Had the smoke been eliminated an evacuation would not have been necessary.
    The checklist is too long and in a smoke filled cockpit you may not even be able to read it.
    Bill Bellinger

    • This should be a simulator training event. It gives me thoughts about today’s technology. In the future they should put artificial voice intelligence that responds to check list questions. Somewhat like “Alexa”. It would be far faster than going through a book or an electronic checklist. It would allow both pilots eyes “flying” the plane.

  2. “Noting passengers’ complaints that the oxygen masks had not deployed, BALPA noted that “this is because they, unlike pilot and cabin crew oxygen systems, are not designed to be used in smoke events as they mix the oxygen supply with the ambient air. Passenger oxygen masks are for use during decompression events.”

    Wow, no passenger provision for an O2 mask during a smoke event???? Amazing! Had that smoke been toxic…which it usually is…most would have been dead strapped to their seats.

    William B. really explained it well. However, it seems that passenger O2 availability should be designed to cover both a decompression event and a smoke event. Up until this incident, I have always thought the O2 coming from the mask in the cabin was pure O2…covering me for both events. It’s a shocking revelation to find out that as rare as a decompression event is and a cabin filled with smoke is far more common, there is no provision for the smoke event. Seriously???

    • Jim,

      Toxic smoke events are obviously extremely rare as they’d be in the news. Decompression events happen just about every day.

      If the smoke is toxic then O2 masks won’t help anyone. They are still going to be breathing the smoke. You would need proper gas masks, and even then they may not work for all types of smoke, or the pax might not get them on in time, or wear them properly.

      If gas mask equipment weighs 500g per passenger, and the average airliner has 150 seats, then that’s an extra 75kg per airplane. Worldwide the part 121 fleet does about 84 million flight hours per year, and an extra 75kg of will raise fuel burn by about 1.9kg per hour. so that’s an extra 160 million kg of fuel burned per year to carry the extra weight.

      The extra fuel will cost about 114 million USD per year, and dump 495 million kg of CO2 into the atmosphere.

      The cost of certified gas masks, which have to be made from fireproof plastics like everything else on an airplane, will be something between $50 and $500. Assuming there are 500,000 seats in the worldwide airline fleet (for about 28,000 planes) that will be between $25 million and $250 million. Like everything else these will require inspection and periodic replacement. And installation costs.

      So all up you’re looking at 200MM USD to 500MM USD per year, plus a lot of carbon dioxide to mitigate the risk somewhat, not perfectly, of a type of accident that almost never happens. Or you could take that money and use it to save about 100,000 lives in third world countries, per year. Or you could eradicate polio.

      Or you could just let the flying public have their cheap flights and let them spend their savings how they want instead of making them waste it on pointless safety theater.

  3. William B., I applaud your years of service as flying officer and dedicated service. It’s always been an open secret how to remove cabin smoke in pressurized cabins but only the front two people know systems well enough to enable ventilation in emergencies. Why a suggested procedure such as yours seemingly a simple modification to emergency check lists and specifically if precautions are made to ensure a fire doesn’t exist in the passenger cabin to allow smoke removal appears to be intransigence of airline companies. Perhaps if the public were made aware of modifying emergency procedures, smoke inhalation injuries can be averted without endangering anyone. Whether this can be applied to every commercial airline manufacturer is another question to be decided.

  4. “Earlier this year, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, said that there had been around 20,000 toxic fume events in the last 10 years.

    Indeed, British Airways enjoyed four just on August 26.

    The APA, though, commended the FAA for recommending that airlines introduce enhanced procedures to mitigate fume events.”…as reported by the BBC August 2016

    “ASRS Database Report Set
    Cabin Smoke, Fire, Fumes, or Odor Incidents
    Report Set Description …………………………………..A sampling of air carrier reports concerning cabin
    smoke, fire, fumes or odor related events.
    Update Number …………………………………………….13.0
    Date of Update ……………………………………………..June 29, 2018

    Number of Records in Report Set ……………………50
    Number of New Records in Report Set ……………50
    Type of Records in Report Set ………………………..For each update, new records received at ASRS will
    displace a like number of the oldest records in the
    Report Set, with the objective of providing the fifty
    most recent relevant ASRS Database records. Records
    within this Report Set have been screened to assure
    their relevance to the topic.”

    Apparently, there is a lot of cabin/cockpit smoke/fume events…more than most realize. Seems way more than decompression events.

    • Jim H,

      I stand corrected, though as far as I’m aware decompression events are very common as well, though not quite that common.

      How many of those fume events resulted in fatalities or serious injuries? Is there any way to tell from the ASRS database?

  5. The first comment by William B is dead on!
    Use your logic (as he explained).
    Too many pilots elect to use emergency evacuation after ldg when the situation really is NOT that urgent.
    How many times do we hear about the injuries there.