It was the morning of August 22, 1985 and British Airtours, owned by British Airways, was operating a charter flight, KT28M, from Manchester, England to Corfu, located on the islands of Greece. The Boeing 737 was nearly full with 137 people aboard including six crew members. The aircraft taxied out to Manchester's runway 24 and was cleared for takeoff. The aircraft began its takeoff roll and passing through approximately 120kts, the crew heard a thumping sound. Because they had not yet reached V1, the captain immediately rejected the takeoff. Believing that the sound may have been caused by a tire blowing out, the captain advised the first officer against using maximum braking but the thrust reversers were deployed. What the flight crew could not see was that immediately following the sound, a fire began on the left wing. Despite the aircraft being stopped on the airport surface and rescue crews being immediately dispatched, 55 people died in the resulting fire.

Burnt Fuselage of KT28M

Examination of the aircraft revealed that the outer casing of the left engine's combustion chamber had ruptured. It had split near the number 9 combuster can and the resulting expansion of the parts had punctured a fuel tank access panel on the underside of the wing. Fuel was then able to leak directly onto the damaged part of the engine and ignite. Metallurgical examination showed that the crack had been caused by thermal fatigue. After the initial split, air loads helped to further open the crack and allow hot combustion air to further deform the can until the final split. Investigators did not believe that the initial crack had developed simultaneously with the final split. Examination of the maintenance recorded showed that the engine, a Pratt & Whitney JT8D-15, had been previously repaired for two other cracks in the same can. British Airways was a relatively new user of the JT8Ds, having acquired them after Pratt & Whitney had removed a limitation on how large a crack could be and still be repairable.

In addition, it was found that the welding of the prior cracks was faulty. Only three prior cases of casing failure with the JT8D-15 had been reported, but there had been many reports of other non-damaging failures occurring. On the engine that failed, there had been 20 prior reports of difficulties in just over a year of service.

Several factors impacted the death toll in this accident. Given the available evidence, the captain's decision to use less than maximum braking was understandable. Had there actually been a tire blowout, the aircraft could have veered off the runway, set fire to the damaged tire, or shed a landing gear strut. Also, the engine fire warning bell and light did not activate immediately. Use of reverse thrust, though part of the prescribed procedure, intensified the fire by blowing air back over the ruptured wing section and pushing the fire against the fuselage. Because of the engine fire and corresponding failure, oil pressure had dropped beyond the level at which the reverse thrust bucket could be retracted, locking them in the extended position. Probably the most critical factor was the captain's decision to exit the runway and stop on a turn-off. By exiting the runway to the right, he inadvertently placed the fuselage downwind of the burning wing. When the doors on the right side of the aircraft were opened, this assisted in allowing the fire to be blown in through the fuselage. The fire had completely burned through the fuselage and had collapsed the entire tail section within a minute of the aircraft being stopped.

Examination of other British Airways aircraft showed similar problems which led to the grounding of several 737s until proper repair could be done. In addition, the CAA mandated rearrangement of seats in order to provide better access to emergency exits and floor-level lighting to assist passengers in locating exits in dark or smoke-filled cabins.