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Weather data suggests crosswind at time of BA 777 fire

Meteorological data from Las Vegas at the time of the British Airways Boeing 777-200 fire indicates a crosswind from the left at the time of the departure.

The damage to the aircraft is consistent with a fire being blown inboard from the left-hand powerplant, along the wing, to the left side of the fuselage.

Images from the scene show severe structural damage to the leading edge and the centre wing-box area of the jet.

There is also evidence of smoke damage on the right side of the fuselage, although it is unclear whether this is the result of smoke being blown through, or under, the fuselage.

METAR data from Las Vegas, issued in a special broadcast at 23:31UTC, about 15min after the event, indicates an 8kt wind from 340°. The aircraft was using runway 07L. The direction of the wind has yet to be confirmed by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators have also yet to determine whether the apparent failure in the General Electric GE90 engine was contained, and whether the severity of the blaze was exacerbated by fuel-line damage.

Circumstances of the accident echo the engine fire suffered by a British Airtours Boeing 737-200 at Manchester in August 1985, the 30th anniversary of which was commemorated less than three weeks ago.

The Airtours accident involved an aborted take-off following a left-hand engine failure.

But as the aircraft decelerated it came to a halt with the fire upwind of the aircraft’s fuselage, fanning the blaze towards the passenger cabin. The situation was worsened by the presence of toxic smoke and delays to evacuation.

Fifty-four fatalities resulted from the Manchester fire which spurred several operational safety recommendations including consideration of wind direction in the event of a blaze. UK investigators pointed out that a slight wind, of even 2kt, could be "critically important" in terms of aircraft orientation in a fire.

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