On Sunday evening, a plane carrying the Arsenal women’s team back to the UK after their Champions League match against Wolfsburg burst into flames on the runway, forcing the pilots to abandon take-off. The incident occurred after Arsenal had drawn 2-2 with Wolfsburg in the first leg of their Women’s Champions League semi-final.
Despite conceding two goals to Ewa Pajor and Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir, Arsenal managed to pull back with goals from Rafaelle Souza and Stina Blackstenius. The game ended in a draw, leaving the tie finely balanced ahead of the second leg in London.
According to the German publication BILD, there was a significant technical issue with the Boeing 737 that was meant to carry the Arsenal team back to London. A witness reported that the plane made a loud bang before it was due to take off at 7.30 pm local time. Flames were then spotted in the aircraft, leading the pilots to abandon take-off and evacuate all passengers.
Fortunately, nobody was injured during the incident, and the Arsenal squad could travel back to London safely the following day. The technical issue was later attributed to a bird flying into the plane’s engine shortly before it was due to take off.
Arsenal issued a statement thanking Wolfsburg’s Braunschweig Airport staff for their assistance and confirming that nobody was hurt. The statement read, “Our aircraft developed a technical issue before take-off in Germany on Sunday evening. As a result, we remained in Wolfsburg overnight on Sunday before flying back to England on Monday afternoon. We would like to thank the staff onboard the aircraft and on the ground at the airport for their assistance.”
Jonas Eidevall’s side returned to action on Monday in the return leg against Wolfsburg despite the incident. Arsenal had already sold close to 50,000 tickets for the match at the Emirates Stadium and was hopeful that it would be a sell-out. The winners of the tie would go on to play either Barcelona or Chelsea in the final on June 3.
Incidents like these are a stark reminder of the importance of safety in air travel. While the cause of the technical issue was ultimately determined to be a bird strike, the consequences could have been far more severe. It is a relief that nobody was hurt in this incident. Arsenal and their fans can now look forward to the remainder of the Champions League campaign with a renewed focus on safety and preparedness.