Heathrow Airport’s Runway Blocked Causing United Airlines Emergency

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Flights from London’s busy Heathrow airport are reportedly being stopped from taking off due to an aircraft blocking the runway. According to reports, runway 27R is blocked, causing problems for aircraft arriving and leaving. Reports suggest that Public Health England has stopped passengers from leaving one plane.

Heathrow British Airways BA
London’s busy Heathrow Airport was disrupted this morning. Photo: Getty

What’s happening?

Heathrow has apparently stopped all aircraft from taking off due to an aircraft blocking runway 27R. It’s not clear what aircraft this is, or even why it is blocking the runway, but some reports are suggesting that Public Heath England may be holding passengers on a plane.

Aircraft were prevented from taking off and landing for over half an hour this morning due to the incident. Online reports suggest that incoming planes were kept circling the airport for up to 20 minutes, while outgoing planes were stopped from taking off for even longer.

One United Airlines flight declared an emergency due to low fuel after being forced to adopt a holding pattern for an extended period. At the time of writing, the aircraft is still in the air and appears to be heading to London’s other major airport, Gatwick.

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UA924 declared a low fuel emergency and headed for Gatwick instead. Photo: FlightRadar24

Other aircraft were seen to hold just north of Heathrow for an extended period, including a British Airways flight arriving from Washington. However, landings now appear to be resuming, although there is a big backlog of aircraft to get to the ground.

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Multiple aircraft could be seen in holding patterns, but landings appear to have resumed now. Photo: FlightRadar24

According to FlightRadar24, the average delay on inbound flights is coming in at just five minutes. However, for outbound flights, there is still a delay of some 20 minutes or more on many of the flights. Despite it being still relatively early in the morning at Heathrow, 74 flights have already been delayed.

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What caused the delay?

Numerous media outlets have jumped to the conclusion that this delay was related to coronavirus. That was all based on one tweet from someone who was expecting their parents to arrive at the airport this morning.

Heathrow coronavirus
Many jumped to the conclusion that the incident was related to the coronavirus. Photo: Getty

However, this knee jerk reaction appears to have been unfounded. Widespread reports of a plane going out of service on landing and needing to be towed away seem more plausible than an aircraft being held on the runway by the health authority.

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Reports suggest that the obstructing plane had also spilled hydraulic fluid on the runway, something which will have required a clean-up before operations resumed. A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport confirmed to Simple Flying that “This is not related to coronavirus”, further adding that,

“For a matter of minutes one of the runways was out of service as an aircraft was towed from the taxiway. Heathrow is now operating as normal.”

While it seems like something of a storm in a teacup, it just highlights Heathrow’s desperate need for an additional runway. Even a disruption of a few minutes is likely to have a knock on effect for aircraft schedules throughout the day.

Were you caught up in the chaos? Let us know in the comments.

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