Fire Hits US Airways Plane In Philadelphia

A small generator fire erupted on a US Airways Express plane at Philadelphia International Airport last night, backing up runway traffic and causing extensive delays.

No one was injured.

The plane - US Airways Express Flight 3647, operated by Air Wisconsin - was preparing to depart Philadelphia for Columbia, S.C. It never left the ground.

As it was taxiing on runway 27-left, a fire broke out in the auxiliary power unit of its right engine about 6:30 p.m., said Jim Peters, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration's Eastern Region.

"Controllers in the tower saw some flame and smoke coming from the underbelly of the No. 2 engine side," Peters said.

Fire crews raced to extinguish the flames. Meanwhile, its 46 passengers and three crew members were evacuated and bused back to the terminal. The regional jet, a CRJ-200 built by Canada's Bombardier, sustained "very little damage," Peters said.

Runway 27-left, one of four airport runways, was shut down until 7:30 p.m., Peters said, adding that about two dozen aircraft were waiting to take off on adjacent taxiways when the fire broke out.

Mark Pesce, airport spokesman, said the airfield was closed for 15 minutes after the fire broke out, during which no flights or departures were allowed on any of the runways.

Philadelphia resident Katie Scrivner, however, said the situation felt worse than that. She was on one of the planes stranded on the runway. Her US Airways Flight 3915 had boarded on time for its 5:45 p.m. flight from Philadelphia to Columbus, Ohio, she said.

But it had to wait for Flight 3647 to be cleared from its taxiway before her plane could depart, she said, speaking by cell phone at 7:15 p.m. while sitting on her plane on a runway.

She said her flight crew told passengers that they were third in line for departure, with 50 other planes waiting in line to take off after them. With all the waiting, the mood on the plane was "tense," she said.

According to the US Airways' Web site, her flight finally took off at 7:33 p.m. and was estimated to arrive in Columbus an hour and 20 minutes late.

While flights at the airport were experiencing an hour or two of delays last night, Peters said he wouldn't know the full number of flights delayed until today.

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