An Air France Boeing 777-300, registration F-GSQD, on flight AF-393 from Beijing (China) to Paris Charles de Gaulle (France), was in the initial climb out of Beijing’s runway 36L when the crew decided to stop the climb at 3000 feet after hearing a loud noise.
The plane returned to Beijing and landed safely on runway 01 about 14 minutes after takeoff.
People reported hearing an explosion followed by black smoke in the cabin, prompting passengers in the aft cabin to hurry forward.
The back of the cabin was brightly illuminated, flight attendants went to the aft cabin with fire extinguishers, and the seat cushions from passenger seat row 52, which appeared to have heat damage, were removed.
Another passenger observed strange noises throughout the takeoff, including a bang at seat row 52 immediately after takeoff and a burning smell in the cabin.
Air France Boeing 777-300 (F-GSQD, built 2004) canceled its climb about 1 minute after take-off from Beijing-Intl AP (ZBAA), China due to some kind of explosion near row 52. Flight #AF393 to Paris safely landed back at Beijing 12 minutes later. https://t.co/FTQpkzTjWN pic.twitter.com/xcKI9NJOXH
— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) September 18, 2021
The bright light seen in the back of the cabin was in the aft galley lights; there had been no fire or visible smoke.
Passengers were pushed forward quickly. A short time later, there was a complete power outage in the cabin; the cabin lights came back on a short time later.
Flight attendants rushed backward with fire extinguishers, removing the seat cushions and discovering some sort of debris splashing out. According to discussions between flight attendants and passengers nearby, it looked like an air conditioning duct had ruptured.
The cabin temperature began to rise, and the strong burning odor became more intense until landing.
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@aviationbrk) September 18, 2021
According to the airline, the return to Beijing was prompted by a technical issue.
“A failure of a pneumatic system on the aircraft caused an overpressure in one of the air conditioning pipes, which spread residue and dust in the cabin.” the airline stated later that day. A replacement plane is on its way to Beijing.