Wild British Airways Aborted Landing At Heathrow

Wild British Airways Aborted Landing At Heathrow

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A British Airways Airbus A321neo had a pretty exciting landing at London Heathrow on Monday, which I think aviation geeks will enjoy. Admittedly this is being blown out of proportion in the media (“BA jet almost flipped over”), but it’s pretty cool footage nonetheless.

British Airways A321neo aborted landing at LHR

At the beginning of the week Storm Corrie caused some challenging conditions, including heavy winds, at the UK’s busiest airport. There were some go arounds at London Heathrow, though none quite as exciting as the one of British Airways flight 1307. The flight was operated by a roughly two year old Airbus A321neo with the registration code G-NEOP.

The aircraft was operating the 400 mile flight from Aberdeen (ABZ) to London (LHR) in the late morning. Just over an hour after takeoff, the plane attempted its first landing, and my gosh, it’s worth seeing. You can watch the original clip for yourself below, which is just over a minute long.

To summarize, at first the approach seems pretty stable, but then the plane struggles to actually touch down. The right wheel touches down, then the plane lifts off the ground again. Then both wheels eventually get on the ground, but then the plane is once again airborne. Then the plane banks left, before eventually nearly having a tail strike. At that point the landing is aborted, and the pilots go around.

The plane ended up successfully landing after the second approach, which added only around 10 minutes to the flight time.

A few thoughts:

  • This guy’s commentary is half the fun of the video
  • While some suggest the plane did have a tail strike, it doesn’t look to me like that’s the case, but rather just that it was very close
  • The plane wasn’t taken out of service after this flight, but rather operated a flight to Geneva shortly after this one (further supporting that there was no tail strike)
  • Operating in these conditions isn’t easy, so kudos to the pilots

Tricky landings are are fun to watch

I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent over the course of my lifetime watching videos on YouTube of tricky aircraft landings. One thing that sets the above video apart is that it’s not really trying to take advantage of any angles to make the landing appear more dramatic than it is.

For example, some of the best crosswind runway videos out there are from Birmingham Airport (BHX), but most videos there are shot straight down the runway, rather than from the side. This makes it all the more interesting to watch, since you notice even the smallest movements, but it’s also a bit dramatized compared to a side angle.

Bottom line

A British Airways Airbus A321neo had a pretty exciting landing at London Heathrow on Monday, and the whole thing was captured on video. The pilots ultimately decided to abort the landing, and had no trouble on their second approach.

It’s a very cool video to watch, and it really shows you how much pilots have to “wrestle down” a plane when conditions aren’t good. However, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that the plane almost flipped over or crashed, which I’m seeing mentioned elsehwere.

What do you make of this British Airways landing video?

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  1. Jay Smith Guest

    Luckily he still had VMCA!

  2. brizone Guest

    At first I thought it laid down a new mark of blue paint on the middle of the runway at 1:08-:09, but then realized you can already see that existing mark around 1:05-:06. Of course, it comes down right on top of the existing mark(!). Was that mark a little bit bigger after? Hard to tell for certain... Still: a close call either way. Even if it did contact the pavement, it was only just barely.

    Kudos to Jerry standing out there shooting all this for everyone, L-O-L!

  3. Gary Pisel Guest

    Why was he trying for a smooth landing. In a cross wind such as he had you plant the aircraft on. Why didn't the spoilers deploy when he touched both main gear on the runway? Perhaps he did not have them armed. As a retired pilot for a major carrier it was difficult to watch. There was no need for the theatrics.

    1. Mike W Guest

      They did. You can see them activating when both mains touch. It would seem the decision to go around was made at the same time as they don’t full extend before retracting again.

  4. Eskimo Guest

    All these stretch variants have higher tailstrike risk. That's why their approach speed keeps getting faster. And in situations like this it becomes tricky. All those A321 and the MAX9 MAX10.

    But it's not a design problem, just tighter operating parameters.

  5. John Guest

    It seems like they came in kinda fast—not unusual in gusty weather—and had a long flare….seems like maybe the pilots didn’t have that much runway (it looks like they are halfway down) left to stop if they did land, which makes the go-around quite sensible.

  6. Ryan Guest

    If there had been a tail strike, you would have seen sparks, or smoke, or both.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      I'm no tailstrike expert, but this isn't Hollywood. So I don't think not seeing sparks can rule out tailstrike. Seeing the flight continue operating is a better clue, since even with no sparks, I'm sure there would be marks if tailstrike did occur and the pilot or ground crew would have spotted it.

      How often do you see car accidents have sparks or smoke or both. Then count how many you see in the newer Fast & Furious series.

  7. Anthony Diamond

    On the question of a tail strike… if one were to occur, would it be safe for the aircraft to leave the ground again and attempt another landing? Under what scenario is it better to just stick with the landing (and incur damage) versus effectively taking off again with a damaged tail (which could lead to a bigger issue)?

    1. RCB Guest

      Exactly what I wonder too, what determines if it's safer to go around or land, and how in the world does someone decide that within a fraction of a second, because that's all the time they really have to decide.

    2. DrewT Member

      Most issues caused by a tailstrike don't become catastrophic until much later. A lot of the issues are with metal fatigue on the aft pressure bulkhead, which wouldn't really be problematic when doing a go around. One notable incident is JAL flight 123, where improperly repaired damage from a tailstrike caused the plane to crash 7 years later.

      Pilots are taught to go around if something isn't right, and in 99.9% of cases that's the...

      Most issues caused by a tailstrike don't become catastrophic until much later. A lot of the issues are with metal fatigue on the aft pressure bulkhead, which wouldn't really be problematic when doing a go around. One notable incident is JAL flight 123, where improperly repaired damage from a tailstrike caused the plane to crash 7 years later.

      Pilots are taught to go around if something isn't right, and in 99.9% of cases that's the right move. Unless your aircraft is uncontrollable and you're basically having a crash landing anyway (like United 232), a go around is pretty much always a safer option.

      (Also to add - not a pilot, mechanic, or engineer, so, I could be wrong)

  8. Mike Guest

    Fully agree that there was no tail strike. Most probably from the angle, it looked like a tail strike, most probably just millimeters from a tail strike.

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Mike W Guest

They did. You can see them activating when both mains touch. It would seem the decision to go around was made at the same time as they don’t full extend before retracting again.

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Jay Smith Guest

Luckily he still had VMCA!

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brizone Guest

At first I thought it laid down a new mark of blue paint on the middle of the runway at 1:08-:09, but then realized you can already see that existing mark around 1:05-:06. Of course, it comes down right on top of the existing mark(!). Was that mark a little bit bigger after? Hard to tell for certain... Still: a close call either way. Even if it did contact the pavement, it was only just barely. Kudos to Jerry standing out there shooting all this for everyone, L-O-L!

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