16 Years On: What Caused The JetBlue Nose Gear Incident?

On September 21, 2005, a JetBlue flight between Burbank and New York City had to perform an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport. The incident was due to a malfunction of the nose gear. But, what happened on that day? Let’s investigate further.

JetBlue 292 landing
JetBlue’s flight 292 had a hard landing 16 years ago. Photo: Andrewmarino via Wikimedia Commons.

JetBlue Flight 292

Flight 292 is JetBlue’s regularly scheduled service between Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. On the day of the incident, the airline used an Airbus A320-232, registration N536JB (and called Canyon Blue).

Onboard Flight 292 on September 21, 2005, were 140 passengers and six crew members. The aircraft departed Burbank at 15:17 and was scheduled to fly nearly 2,500 miles to New York City.

The first officer was flying the aircraft. During the initial departure, he didn’t notice any problem and even had a positive rate of climb, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Nevertheless, a few minutes after, the flight crew noted an error message displayed on the Electric Centralized Aircraft Monitoring system. The crew could not retract the nose landing gear.

While the captain consulted the flight crew operating manual, the first officer flew over Palmdale, California. But, after a while, it became obvious that the flight wouldn’t go all the way to New York.

JetBlue A320
The crew of the flight had to land at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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What happened next?

The crew diverted the flight to Long Beach, California. According to the NTSB, the captain decided to perform a flyby of the tower for verification of the gear status. The tower, JetBlue ground personnel, and a local news helicopter advised him that the nose landing gear was canted 90 degrees to the left.

Instead of turning back to Burbank, the captain decided to land in Los Angeles International Airport. The NTSB cites the captain’s choice as, “because it had optimum field conditions, runway length, and better emergency support services.” Before landing, the crew burned fuel for several hours.

Prior to landing, the captain advised its crew and passengers to brace for impact. He touched down at 120 knots, and did not use ground spoilers, reverse thrust, or auto-braking. Once the aircraft completely stopped, the air traffic control tower confirmed that there was no fire, and the passengers deplaned normally, using an airstair.

Both of the nose landing gear tires deflated and tore apart. Despite the abnormal nose landing gear configuration, the airplane stayed on the runway centerline, and its trajectory was unaffected.

16 Years On: What Caused The JetBlue Nose Gear Incident?
Following the incident, the NTSB launched an investigation. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

What caused the incident?

Following the hard landing at Los Angeles, the NTSB launched an investigation into the incident. The Board determined,

“Examination of the nose wheel assembly with a borescope revealed fractured and separated anti-rotation lugs.”

It also added,

“The examination of the nose landing gear assembly revealed that two of the four anti-rotation lugs on the upper support assembly have fractured and separated from the upper support assembly. The other two lugs contained cracks.”

Following the incident, Airbus issued an Operations Engineering Bulletin. This technical information provided a procedure for the flight crew to reset in flight the Brake Steering Control Unit which controls the nose landing gear.

Have you heard of JetBlue’s nose gear incident before? What else do you know? Let us know in the comments below.