Chinese plane catches fire after veering off runway

About 40 passengers with minor injuries were sent to hospital

A Tibet Airlines plane caught fire on Thursday after veering off the runway at a Chinese airport.

All passengers and crew were "safely evacuated", the airline said.

The flight, carrying 113 passengers and nine crew, was headed from the southwestern city of Chongqing to Tibet's Nyingchi when "abnormalities" were noticed and take-off was suspended, causing the plane to overrun the runway, the company said.

Images shared by Chinese state media showed flames engulfing the side of the stricken plane as terrified passengers ran from the scene.

Photos of the aftermath showed scorch marks covering the plane's nose and one wing, which had been doused in water.

Flight TV9833 deviated from the runway during take-off and "the left side of the aircraft's nose caught fire", Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport said.

About 40 passengers with minor injuries were sent to hospital, the airport said.

"The cause of the accident is being investigated," the airport said.

Two flight recorders, or "black boxes", were recovered and are being analysed in the United States in the hopes of unlocking the mystery behind the China Eastern plane's rapid descent.

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, China's ruling Communist Party moved quickly to control information, revving up its censorship machine as media outlets and residents raced to the crash site.

Rescue workers are seen at the site where a Tibet Airlines plane caught fire after an aborted takeoff at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport in Chongqing, China, on May 12. via Reuters

There was no report of issues before the flight nor was there any cargo declared as dangerous on the plane, according to authorities, who noted no abnormalities in the plane's navigation and monitoring equipment.

The nine-year-old plane was powered by CFM56 engines from CFM International — a joint venture between General Electric Co and France’s Safran SA.

Airbus China spokesman Michael Shen said: “We are aware of the media reports. All efforts are now going toward assessing the situation.”

CFM did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The incident comes less than two months after a China Eastern Airlines Corp plane crashed in the southwestern province of Guangxi, killing all 132 passengers and crew.

There have been few clues about the cause of the accident.

The tragedy shocked a country that had one of the best airline safety records in the world and whose aviation industry was, prior to Covid-19, one of the world's fastest-growing markets by passenger traffic.

Updated: May 12, 2022, 11:12 AM