A series of faults saw a Delta Air Lines Airbus return to Minneapolis on Thursday, May 27. The incident, which has only recently come to light, caused the pilots to declare an emergency and, facing braking problems, ask for the longest available runway.
Problems reported with landing gear, brakes, reversers, and shock absorbers
A report by Simon Hradecky in The Aviation Herald on Sunday says the Airbus had just taken off from Minneapolis (MSP) and was en route to Baltimore (BWI). The Airbus A320-200 (registered as N342NW) was operating DL1205. The report says 142 passengers and crew were on the flight.
Just after takeoff, the pilots leveled off at 4,000 feet, reporting a mechanical fault. After troubleshooting, the pilots declared an emergency. They reported that they had a landing gear shock absorber fault, the landing gear did not retract, several of their brakes weren’t working, the reversers were not working, and normal braking was not working.
“Okay, we’re probably going to have some pretty hot brakes by the time we stop,” the pilots can be heard telling Minneapolis as they made their final approach.
A fast landing after one hour in the air
According to flight-tracking websites, the aircraft had operated a return service from Minneapolis to Portland on the same day without incident. DL1205 is the 19:58 departure from Minneapolis St Paul International Airport bound for Baltimore Washington International.
The aircraft took off to the southeast before doing a 180° turn and tracking to the northwest of Minneapolis. DL1205 then orbited to the west of the airport, completing several large loops before lining up for an approach back into Minneapolis. The plane maintained a low altitude throughout the orbit, staying close to 6,000 feet, and reached a maximum speed of 325 miles (524 kilometers) per hour. N342NW was moving at around 210 miles per hour as it passed the threshold of Minneapolis’ runway 12R.
According to The Aviation Herald, once the pilots identified problems with their brakes, they told Minneapolis they needed the longest runway available.
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The plane has a long but incident-free history at Delta Air Lines
Footage available online shows the Airbus making a fast landing on runway 12R. Lights from waiting emergency response vehicles are visible. As the aircraft safely came to a stop, fire engines raced to the plane. N342NW remained at the end of the runway until a tug came to tow it off. There were no reports of injuries to the passengers and crew onboard. The aircraft spent less than one hour in the air.
Aviation database ch-aviation reveals N342NW is 28.64 years old. As of December 31, 2020, the plane had flown 81,103 hours over 36,075 flight cycles. Before flying for Delta Air Lines, the narrowbody Airbus flew for Northwest Airlines between 1993 and 2008. In 2008, Delta merged with Northwest Airlines, in the process, rebadging many of Northwest’s aircraft.
Despite the aircraft’s age, N342NW’s first recorded incident reflects the rigorous maintenance and inspection programs at Delta and previously Northwest.
Passengers on the affected flight continued onto BWI the following morning on another plane. They arrived in Baltimore safely but 13 hours behind schedule.
The aircraft involved in the May 27 incident, N342NW, remained in Minneapolis for almost 24 hours after the fast landing. It operated DL1205 across to Baltimore Washington International the following evening, May 28, without incident. The plane has since resumed its normal flying roster.