Thursday, November 10, 2011

Airline passengers watched in horror as wheel fell off their plane... but didn't alert cabin crew

Shocked passengers saw a wheel fall off the plane they were travelling on shortly after take off, an accident report has revealed.

The terrified flyers watched as the large wheel became detached and plummeted to the ground on the journey from Exeter to Newcastle.

But cabin crew were not immediately aware of the potentially deadly mechanical error. Passenger did not inform staff on the plane either, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said.

Air traffic control told the flight crew a wheel might have been lost and the senior stewardess who were asked to inspect the right landing gear area by the captain were told by passengers about the wheel falling off.

As the pilots of the Dash 8 aircraft attempted to get the Flybe operated aircraft down, passengers were moved so they were evenly distributed, the report said. The pilots decided to return to Exeter using the ‘alternate landing gear extension’ procedure.

With the 58-year-old captain having issued a Mayday to air traffic controllers, the 39 passengers adopted the brace position as it returned to Exeter.

The co-pilot contacted the airline's chief pilot by radio and it was agreed that the crew would use a left-wingdown technique ensuring the left mainwheels touched down on the runway first, with the remaining right mainwheel then being lowered onto the runway as gently as possible.

As it touched down, it veered to the left and the captain had to apply ‘significant amounts of right rudder’ to hold the aircraft steady. He then used the emergency brake to bring the aircraft to a halt and the passengers were able to disembark through the front left door.

The plane had taken off from Exeter airport bound for Newcastle before the wheel came loose

The AAIB said the wheel's outer bearing had seized and ‘consequential damage had allowed the wheel to detach’.

The report added that the captain had inspected the right main landing gear before the flight and had not noticed any abnormalities and ‘given the nature of the bearing failure, it is unlikely that any (abnormalities) would have been visible.’

It stated: ‘Having an engineer on board, licensed on the aircraft type, was beneficial and his knowledge was used to good advantage.’

The AAIB said several safety actions had been initiated following the incident.

In 2009, a Cardiff-bound Dash 8 aircraft, also operated by Flybe, was forced to make an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex.

The aircraft, which was flying in from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, with 46 passengers on board, had to put down early following a suspected smoke problem.

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