On New Year’s Eve, an engine issue forced a KLM Boeing 777-300ER to make an unscheduled diversion. The flight from Shanghai to Amsterdam ended up diverting to Beijing as a result of the problem. But how exactly did the incident play out, and where is the aircraft now?
The flight in question
KLM flight KL896 is a daily service between Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) and Amsterdam Schipol Airport (AMS). Its departure time is 12:40 local time, with arrival in the Netherlands timed for 17:45. Scheduled to take 12 hours and five minutes, the Dutch flag carrier uses both the -200ER and -300ER variants of the Boeing 777 on this route.
KLM faces competition on this corridor from China Eastern Airlines, although competition among cargo airlines is even fiercer. No fewer than four dedicated freight carriers (AirBridgeCargo, Air China Cargo, China Cargo Airlines, and China Southern Cargo) transport goods between the two cities.
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According to FlightRadar24.com, flight KL896 departed Shanghai over an hour and a half late on December 31st, 2020. With takeoff having occurred at 14:16, the reason for this delay is unclear. Indeed, the aircraft’s previous flight, from Seoul Incheon (ICN), South Korea’s largest airport, arrived in Shanghai just 19 minutes behind schedule. However, further, and far more significant, delays were soon to follow.
The Aviation Herald reports that the flight’s crew discovered issues with the aircraft’s left-hand GE90 engine while around 110 km (60 NM) southeast of Irkutsk, Russia. Its altitude at the time was 32,000 feet. The crew subsequently elected to divert to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) in China. During the course of the flight’s return to Beijing, the aircraft drifted down to an altitude of 28,000 feet, and then further to 25,000 feet.
It is also known that at some point during the diversion, the aircraft’s left-hand engine was shut down. Nonetheless, the crew was able to safely land the aircraft on runway 01 at PEK at around 21:25 local time. Touchdown occurred around three-and-a-half hours after the initial descent from 32,000 feet, and just over seven hours after departure from Shanghai.
The aircraft involved
FlightRadar24.com reports that the aircraft involved in the incident, a Boeing 777-300ER registered as PH-BVA, is still yet to leave Beijing. While on the ground there, maintenance workers are said to have found metallic chips in the magnetic chip detector of the engine.
According to Planespotters.net, KLM took delivery of this aircraft in 2008. In 2016, it was repainted in the Dutch flag carrier’s special ‘Orange Pride’ livery. In addition to this, it also bears the name Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe / De Hoge Veluwe National Park.
SeatGuru reports that KLM’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, of which there are 14 in its fleet, sport a three-class seating configuration. This consists of 34 business class flatbeds, 40 economy comfort seats, and 334 standard economy class seats, the latter of which are laid out in a 3-4-3 setup. However, on the day in question, flight KL896 was only carrying cargo and its crew.
What do you make of this incident? Have you ever flown on a KLM Boeing 777? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.