Threat was made prior to plane fire

The owners of the plane that caught fire on Saturday at SFO received a threat against its aircraft shortly before the incident, according to a report issued by federal officials Thursday.

The Boeing 767 cargo airplane, owned by ABX Air, burst into flames at 10:15 p.m. Saturday, forcing the evacuation of its two pilots. The fire originated just outside of the plane’s cockpit, eventually burning a hole through the fuselage.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that ABX Air received a threat within the week before the fire, but would not provide any further details on the manner of the threat. Preliminary examinations have not shown the fire to be triggered by explosives or any other incendiary devices, according to the NTSB report.

Beth Huber, spokeswoman for the Ohio-based ABX Air, said she was unaware of any threats sent to the company prior to Saturday’s fire.

The plane’s two pilots were the only passengers aboard the ABX aircraft, which was carrying freight for the delivery company DHL, at the time of the fire. The pilots, who escaped injury by climbing through the plane’s cockpit windows, have both been interviewed by the NTSB. The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder also are being analyzed.

The fire happened at the remote cargo area in the airport. The San Francisco Fire Department’s Airport Division responded to the fire, quelling the flames in approximately 15 to 20 minutes. About 100 workers were evacuated from nearby buildings, but were allowed to return 90 minutes later.

The 21-year-old aircraft damaged by the inferno originally was designed for passenger use, but it was modified in 2004 to cargo configuration by Israel Aerospace Industries. The Israeli Ministry of Transport has sent a representative to assist in the NTSB’s investigation of the fire. The on-scene investigation of the fire is scheduled to be completed by Sunday.

Representatives from DHL and the Federal Aviation Association on Thursday referred all comments to the NTSB. Officials from the NTSB declined comment.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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