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LONDON (Reuters) - British air safety regulators ordered Airbus to notify operators of its A320 jets to make specific safety checks after finding unlocked engine covers had forced a jet to make an emergency landing at London's Heathrow airport last week.
An Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report published on Friday said two coverings or cowls on the Airbus EAD.PA A319's engines were left unlatched after maintenance and this was not noticed before the aircraft departed.
All 75 passengers and five crew were unharmed after having been evacuated via the aircraft's emergency chutes following the Oslo-bound plane's emergency landing.
As a result of its investigation, the AAIB has formally requested Airbus notify operators of A320-family aircraft to check that the fan cowl doors are fully closed prior to flight by visually checking the position of the latches.
"We are supporting the AAIB-led investigation and will follow its recommendations," Airbus said in a statement.
The AAIB said that prior to the BA incident there had been 32 reported fan cowl door detachment events by July 2012, 80 percent of which had occurred during takeoff.
The AAIB report said the fan doors from both engines of the BA jet detached during takeoff, puncturing a fuel pipe on the right engine and damaging the airframe and some aircraft systems. In turn this lead to a fire in the right engine on the approach to land.
It said fastening the fan cowl door latches usually required maintenance personnel to lie on the ground to reach the latches, and that the latches were difficult to see unless the person was crouching down.
BA's A319s are powered by two IAE V2500 engines made by the International Aero Engines consortium, part-owned by Pratt & Whitney parent UTC (UTX.N).
The AAIB said the BA plane's right engine was extensively fire damaged but the left engine continued to perform normally.
This contradicts findings made by America's National Transport Safety Board (NTSB), which on Thursday said the plane was forced to land after pilots shut down one engine, while the other caught fire.
Editing by Sarah Young and David Holmes