BERLIN, Germany - A Lufthansa flight suffered severe damages and was grounded after a tow vehicle caught fire close to the plane at Germany's busiest hub, the Frankfurt airport.
A spokesman for the German airline Lufthansa, which is part of Star Alliance said that the vehicle towing the Lufthansa Airbus A340 plane caught fire when it was steering the passenger jet towards a departure gate to pick up passengers headed to Philadelphia.
The towing of a plane is a routine manoeuvre which is usually carried out to avoid the plane having to use its engine jets close to the terminal.
The fire soon spread from the burning truck to the plane, which was leaving Frankfurt Airport in Germany on Monday morning.
Fire crews rushed to the spot to douse the inferno, and blankets of foam was sprayed over the damaged vehicle.
However, the rapidly spreading flames left the plane’s exterior completely blackened.
Several passengers posted photos on social media, showing the front of the Airbus A 340-300 engulfed in flames, as a massive column of black smoke billowing into the air from the airport tarmac.
The airline said that the plane was empty when the incident took place, and said that the plane was so severely damaged by the intense blaze that it had to be grounded.
It added that ten airport workers suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation and were being treated for respiratory irritations.
Lufthansa has said that, so far, it was not clear how the fire broke out.
Later in the day, a Star Alliance spokesman said in a statement, "This morning, a Lufthansa LEOS push-back vehicle caught fire on the apron of Frankfurt airport during re-positioning of an aircraft. Heavy smoke emerged. The fire has been completely extinguished. There were no passengers or crew on board. Ten people are being treated with respiratory irritations. There are no serious injuries. The defective push-back has been pulled off."
The airline added that it was still assessing the extent of the damage but the cockpit of the empty passenger aircraft was said to have been seriously damaged by the heavy smoke.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Frankfurt airport said that the fire was limited and the incident did not disrupt airport traffic.
Adding that, “Aeroplanes or facilities of the airport were not affected by the fire."