Monday, 29 December 2014

Emmergency Landing for Virgin 747 at London Gatwick

Drama over the skies of the south east of England today as a stricken Virgin Atlantic 747 had to repeated circle to burn fuel before returning to London's Gatwick Airport after discovering a problem with part of its main landing gear.

Virgin planeThe Virgin flight VS43 with 447 passengers and 15 crew had just departed Gatwick at the start of is flight to Las Vegas when it had to return to the airport, causing major disruption and the closure of Gatwick's only runway. The Virgin aircraft touched down at around 1600 but Gatwick's runway only reopened at 19:03.

Gatwick Airport said in a statement: "The airport is now facilitating inbound and outbound flights but it will take some time for normal service to resume. We advise passengers to check with their airlines on the status of their flight. Updates will also be posted on the Gatwick website and on Twitter."

The statement also explained that the airport was working with its airline partners to provide food, drink and welfare facilities to those affected by the delays and cancellations and volunteers were helping provide advice. Dozens of arriving flights had been diverted to other London and south east airports.

Virgin plane
The Virgin 747 is 13-year-old aircraft and had departed Gatwick 11:30 GMT on Monday 29th, when a problem with the main landing gear and hydraulics became apparent. The pilot then had to burn and jettison fuel to in order to be light enough to land. During the incident Virgin announced the plane would be carrying out a "non-standard landing procedure" at Gatwick airport.

Virgin Atlantic 747 landing at GatwickPassenger Nick Hughes, on board the jet, said the crew made several attempts to try to free the landing gear.  "They put the thrust on quite heavily and then dipped down, I think, to try and loosen the gears but obviously nothing kind of worked. They gave it every opportunity before they tried the emergency landing. All credit due to the crew and the staff and of course the pilots because the landing was probably one of the softest landings I've ever had."

Eyewitnesses on the ground reported the jet flying at relatively low altitude with the pilot appearing to be trying to "shake" the landing gear down.

Close-up of landing gear
Another passenger, Hardeek Desai, said: "The staff were trying to keep everyone calm but a few passengers were a bit panicky. One of the crew came out to the seating area to reassure everyone everything was going to be OK. The staff were giving out thing like drinks and water to everyone to make sure everyone's OK. Generally, the mood was pretty good at this point until we hit the brace position."

Describing the mood on the plane as it was circling, passenger Dan Crane, 24, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, said it was "anxious, a lot were worried, some crying. The mood was quiet, just waiting for the captain's next announcement."  Mr Crane, who is with family and friends, said the crew kept everyone informed, adding: "They said it was an emergency landing and we had to brace on impact."

Another passenger, Mike Kaufman, said: "This was one of the greatest emergency landings in history. It was very smooth." He praised the pilots and the cabin crew, saying the landing had been "textbook".

Virgin plane landedVirgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said: "I am very pleased to confirm that all customers and crew have now disembarked the VS43 flight to Las Vegas, which returned to Gatwick airport this afternoon following a problem with one of the landing gear.  I understand that this will have been a very upsetting situation for the customers involved, and for their friends and family, and will have significantly disrupted people's holiday plans.

"We will make sure they are well looked after this evening, and will be operating a special flight tomorrow for everyone who would like to continue their journey."

Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson tweeted: "Well done @VirginAtlantic pilots & team for safe & skilful landing of #VS43. Thoughts with passengers & crew, thanks for support & patience."

An investigation is underway.