Passengers reported seeing two-metre flames shoot out of the aircraft and hearing “loud firecracker noises”.
Air France flight AF7470 had taken off from Paris Orly airport at 8.45pm on Friday, bound for Perpignan, when it encountered technical problems less than an hour into the journey.
One of the Airbus A318’s engines had reportedly caught fire, with one passenger telling BMFTV: “We heard loud firecracker noises. And my colleague right next to me said to me: ‘Look, there are flames!’ So I look and indeed, I see flames of 1.5 to 2 metres”.
“On take-off, the plane’s engine caught fire, we turned around,” a passenger named Johann posted on Facebook, adding: “My heart almost stopped”.
Pilots decided to make a U-turn back to Paris Orly on the jet’s one remaining engine, and landed safely less than an hour after take-off with all 48 passengers onboard unharmed.
Passenger Johann praised the actions of “a good pilot” in his Facebook post about the incident.
In a statement to Le Parisien, Air France described the issue as an “engine surge”.
“The crew of flight AF7470 on 21 January, 2022 operating the Paris Orly–Perpignan route decided to return to Orly following a technical problem and in accordance with company and manufacturer procedures. The aircraft landed safely at 9.15pm local time and the passengers were taken care of by Air France staff,” said a spokesperson.
The airline emphasised that this type of incident is extremely rare, adding: “Air France crews are regularly trained to manage this type of known and controlled situation. Air France recalls that its crews are trained that the health and safety of its customers and staff is an absolute imperative.”
Passengers were sent to stay overnight in hotels near Paris Orly, before being able to board a flight the following day.