As if an emergency landing isn’t harrowing enough, passengers onboard a flight with failed landing gear were told not to “rock the plane” while exiting.
The British Airways flight, bound for Chicago, had just taken off from London Heathrow when pilots discovered their landing gear was jammed and they would not be able to make a proper landing.
Although the incident took place in January, a full report of the investigation was just released last week.
Due to a maintenance error, pilots were not able to properly release their landing gear and were forced to make an emergency landing without the wheels on the airplane’s wings. After speaking with grounds crew, pilots decided to turn the flight around and head back to Heathrow for an emergency landing.
The plane dumped fuel and safely executed the emergency landing. The runway at Heathrow was closed for an hour while the plane was secured and towed away, according to The Telegraph.
One passenger told The Daily Star the landing was “almost seamless. Better than other flights I've been on”—but that was only half the battle. The plane’s 293 passengers had to leave the aircraft very slowly and were warned to be careful not to “rock the plane.”
It had been the airplane’s first flight since maintenance on its Landing Gear Control Module (LGCM). Apparently during maintenance, a small pin had been left out during installation of the new LGCM, resulting in an incorrect rigging and complete jamming of the system. When pilots went to move landing gear from “up” to “off” after takeoff, they were unable to. It was jammed in “up.”
"Our highly trained pilots practice a range of landings during their regular training,” British Airways said in a statement. “We have introduced additional engineering procedure checks and training to ensure this issue does not happen again."
There is always potential for major damage to the aircraft during a gear up landing. The plane could also catch fire or flip, depending on weather conditions.
Gear up landings are a surprisingly common occurrence—although it’s not typically from failed gear, rather pilots forgetting to lower the gear. The Aviation Safety Reporting System estimates that there are about 60 of these landings every year, generally so minor that they don’t merit an investigation or report.