The Most Expensive “Water” Cannon Salute Ever? Case: Virgin Atlantic


When an airline opens a new route, the plane is usually sent off and welcomed with a water cannon salute.

The Most Expensive Water Cannon Salute Ever

Something went terribly wrong yesterday when the fire department mistakenly used foam instead of water when sending off the Virgin Atlantic inaugural flight from Manchester to Atlanta, resulting in the plane “going mechanical”. The flight ended up being canceled.

You can read more about this incident on Daily Mail’s website here of which below is an excerpt:

The Virgin Atlantic plane – with its ‘Beauty Queen’ name emblazoned on the fuselage of the Airbus A330-300 – had just landed in Manchester with 188 passengers on board after its high-profile inaugural flight from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA.

It was preparing to depart from Manchester as return flight VS109 when the watery tradition was set to send it on it way.

But disaster struck when the fire tenders at Manchester Airport positioned themselves to spray a giant arch of water over the top of the transatlantic passenger jet – and someone mistakenly pressed the button marked ‘foam’.

So instead of pure water splaying down the aircraft, it was fire-suppressing foam which got into and clogged up the vital and sensitive jet engines and hi-tech turbine blades.


This ended up being one expensive lesson for a firefighter to learn. Don’t press the FOAM button when doing these salutes!

I am surprised that Virgin Atlantic didn’t re-book the passengers on other airline to their US destinations rather than rescheduling them to leave a day later.

It would be interesting to find out if the airline offered compensation per EC 261/2004. One could certainly argue that this was not force majeure but rather a mistake that could have been prevented.