| A damaged British Airways plane on the tarmac at Heathrow as seen from the SriLankan Airlines jet on Tuesday. (AP)
London, Oct. 16: An investigation has been launched after two planes collided on the runway at Heathrow airport last night while preparing to take off.
Witnesses reported seeing part of the engine of a British Airways jumbo jet aircraft, Flight BA011, falling onto the runway when it collided with the tip of the wing of an SriLankan Airlines Airbus A340.
No one was thought to be injured in the crash but about 20 fire engines were called to the scene.
The BA jet was bound for Singapore when it crashed into the SriLankan Airlines plane, which was heading for the Maldives at about 10.20pm.
The cause of the incident is not yet known.
A Danish passenger on the SriLankan flight said her plane had hit the BA aircraft from behind while manoeuvring on the runway.
“We turned our wing, almost hit what looked like the tail end of the British Airways flight, and we ended up chopping off a bit of wing ... It cut through it like butter,” said journalist Annasofie Flamand, 32.
“It’s pretty incredible to see something like that in a place like Heathrow airport. Thank God it was on the ground and not in the air.”
Passengers were reported to be very shaken and distressed but were being told by their pilots over the intercom that there was no need to panic.
A spokesman for British Airways said passengers had been offloaded safely and were now in the terminal building.
“Our aircraft had a minor collision with another aircraft in the taxiways,” he said.
“Engineers are inspecting the aircraft to ascertain the damage.
“We do not have any more precise details of the collision while it is being investigated.”
SriLankan Airlines said it had transferred all its passengers to hotels until they can make alternate travel arrangements.
A spokesman for London Fire Brigade said that there was no serious damage to the aircraft and no reports of injuries. Each year more than 64 million passengers pass through Heathrow airport and there are about 450,000 landings and take-offs.
The incident comes as Heathrow airport faces growing criticism for long delays and chaos caused to passengers. Last month the airport was found to have the worst delays in Europe with some passengers being forced to wait on the tarmac for up to half an hour.
During one incident the airport’s northern runway was blocked for more than 90 minutes after a Royal Brunei flight made an emergency landing Statistics from the Association of European Airlines showed that more than one flight in three left Heathrow more than 15 minutes late.