Inbound from Beijing, China, British Airways twin engined Boeing 777(G-YMMM - built in 2001 - with 23,476 flying hours as of Dec. 31, 2006), flight BA038 in bound, non -stop from Beijing China with 136 passengers (total capacity > 440), three flightdeck crew and 13 cabin crew on board was on the approach to runway 27L at 12.43local time (18 minutes ahead of schedule).
It appears that the aircraft appears to have suffered loss of power on both engines at some stage late in the approach and also use of avionics. The reason for the power loss is not yet known, nor is it known whether power loss was total.
The weather at Heathrow at the time was wind from 220° at 16kt (30km/h), broken cloud at 1,400ft (426m) and 2,000ft, temperature 11°C, dew point 9°C, with a warning that the wind might vary temporarily to 240° at 20kt, gusting to 32kt. The visibility was greater than 10km (6.2 miles).
The crew managed to control the descent to a touchdown (and without making announcments to passengers) with wings level, on grass just inside the perimeter fence at Heathrow, on the 27L extended centreline. The landing gear was down, flaps were set at about 20°, and the indications are that the crew had started the auxiliary power unit.
On touchdown after a ground run of 350m (1,150ft) on grass the 777's gear dug into the soft ground and separated. The aircraft came to rest at the threshold of runway 27L. Forward momentum would have been low as the plane was close to its stalling speed.
When the main landing gear separated it caused considerable damage to the engines and the wings near the wing-root trailing edge.
Emergency chutes were deployed and all passengers and crew evacuated in an orderly fashion. Thirteen the passengers (among them 7 British and 3 Chinese) are reported to have been treated at nearby Hillingdon Hospital for minor injuries. There was no fire.
Eyewitness Neil Jones, who has a general aviation pilot’s licence told the BBC , that the plane had been making a “very, very unusual approach,” and the engine sounded louder than normal. “The aircraft was banking to the left and it was coming in very low over the surrounding houses. The plane was significantly lower than it would normally be,” he said.
A Scotland Yard spokesman is quoted by the Daily Mail..."There is nothing to suggest at this stage that the incident is in any way terrorist-related."
On Sunday 6th January a Quantas 747- 400 with 300 passengers on the Sysdney - London route landed at Bangkok after the jumbo jet lost all power which has so far been attributed water seeping from a toilet sink into the generator as the plane descended into Bangkok.
It's early days but various theories have been advanced for the BA crash landing ...fuel starvation (they should have had 1 hours capacity spare) , interference from use of passenger wireless equipment, bird strike (Daily Mail take this up) and even wind shear.
The Boeing 777 is the only Boeing jet passenger plane with Fly by Wire controls - these can be overriden by the pilot (unlike the Airbus series). Enquiries will naturally focus on the loss of avionics - this is confirmed at EETimes .
UPDATE : BBC 4 Midnight News had a rescue person claiming to have spoken to the pilot (Peter Burkhill ?) who said there was a catastrophic loss of engine power - which would suggest that the views expresed on BBC2 Newsnight of wind shear , whilst it may be contributory was not the principal and fundamental cause.
The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sent a team with investigator Bill English as the U.S. Accredited Representative who will work with the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) in its investigation . An aviation systems technical specialist and a powerplants technical specialist will accompany English. The Federal Aviation Administration and the Boeing Aircraft Company are also sending investigators as part of the team.
The AAIB will lead the investigation and information will be released through it. (Many will remember that the NTSB were shouldered aside by the FBI in investigating 9/11 hijacks/crashes - the only ones on US soil they have NEVER investigated)... their website states "the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Safety Board provided requested technical assistance to the FBI, and any material generated by the NTSB is under the control of the FBI. The Safety Board does not plan to issue a report or open a public docket." ...some documents are available at the National Safety Archive August 2006 in response to a Freedom of Information request by the National Security Archive.
Useful discussion here at glider pilot Ewans Musings blog
BA website has updates on effects of accident and a contact telephone number
Detauled, lengthy and informative review of flit testing the Boeing 777-ER Extended Range plane from Boeing here.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Claims by Quantas - more bad news for Boeing.
The Financial Times reports today that Qantas, the Australian flag carrier, on Thursday became the first airline to announce it was seeking damages from Boeing, the US aircraft maker, for late delivery of the 787 Dreamliner. The group has made a commitment for up to 115 aircraft. The first 15 787s to be delivered to the Qantas Group will be operated by Jetstar, its low cost subsidiary, on international routes.
The share price, initially hit US$82/3 but settled down below US$80 0.5% on the day.