British Airways Flies 5 Hour Flight To Nowhere After Weather Radars Fail

On April 11th, a British Airways 777-200 was flying from London to Mumbai when its two weather radar systems failed. This failure led to Saudi Arabia rejecting their overflight, prompting the aircraft to return back to home base at London Heathrow.

British Airways Flies 5 Hour Flight To Nowhere After Weather Radars Fail
The aircraft involved was a 21-year old Boeing 777-200. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Flight details

It was on April 11th at 10:41 British Summer Time that flight BA139 took off from London Heathrow for Mumbai in India. The flight was operated by a Boeing 777-200 registered as G-YMMA.

According to The Aviation Herald, the jet was en route at FL370, about 30NM south of Skopje (Macedonia), when the crew made the decision to return to London. It was around this time that they had informed ATC of a weather radar failure.

In fact, both of the aircraft’s weather radar systems had failed. Without at least one working weather radar, the airline’s flight was rejected by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as it would have overflown the country (after flying over parts of Egypt and Jordan).

British Airways Flies 5 Hour Flight To Nowhere After Weather Radars Fail
The failure of weather radar led to a five-hour flight to nowhere, ultimately landing back at London Heathrow. Photo:

The aircraft then climbed to FL380, beginning its return to London. A safe landing was performed about two hours and 45 minutes after turning around – over five hours from when the jet first took off from Heathrow.

What happened to the passengers and aircraft?

With over five hours of flying only to return to the origin airport, British Airways re-accommodated the passengers of flight BA139 on another aircraft- another Boeing 777-200. This replacement jet was registered as G-YMMT. A successful flight, the aircraft arrived in Mumbai at 08:27 local time the next day.

This flight would normally not be a “red-eye” overnight service, typically arriving in Mumbai at around 23:30 on the same day. However, due to the original flight’s turnaround and the transfer of passengers, baggage, and freight, the flight had a total delay of about nine hours.

As for the incident aircraft, G-YMMA, it remained on the ground for about 19.5 hours. Redeeming itself, the aircraft performed the same flight, BA139, to Mumbai the very next day, successfully performing the return journey back to Heathrow as well.

Since then, G-YMMA has flown a return service from London to Accra (Ghana) and will do the same today.

British Airways Flies 5 Hour Flight To Nowhere After Weather Radars Fail
British Airways have 43 Boeing 777-200s in its fleet. 17 of these are listed as “Parked.” Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The incident aircraft

G-YMMA is a 21-year-old Boeing 777-200, which joined British Airways in January of 2000. The jet is powered by two Rolls-Royce powerplants and is configured with 275 seats across three classes: 48 business class seats, 24 in premium economy, and 203 economy class seats. The aircraft has only ever flown with British Airways.

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In total, British Airways has 43 Boeing 777-200s in its fleet. At this time, a good portion of this sub fleet is parked due to the global health crisis, with listing 26 as active and 17 “Parked.” The average age of the 777-200s is 21.2 years.

This incident is the second 777 issue the airline has had this month. Earlier in April, a suspected open cargo door forced a British Airway Boeing 777 to return to London Heathrow. The aircraft was operating BA277 to Hyderabad.

What do you think of this incident and having to return to London? Let us know in the comments.