***Update: 13/12/2019 @ 18:12 UTC – added comment from Lufthansa***
On Monday, a Lufthansa Airbus A340 flew from Frankfurt to Cologne (85 miles as the crow flies) with a flight time of eight hours. The aircraft was due to fly to New York, however, a hydraulics issue forced it to turn around over Greenland and return to Germany.
While this flight can’t compete with KLM’s recent 11-hour flight to nowhere, it is still notable due to its quirks. Halfway across the Atlantic, the aircraft had to turn back to Germany with what has been described as issues with the aircraft’s hydraulics system. However, due to the night-time curfew at Frankfurt, the aircraft had to divert to a nearby airport.
Lufthansa flight 404
On Monday 9th of December, Lufthansa flight 404 was due to fly from Frankfurt to New York. The flight was to be operated by an Airbus A340-600 registered as D-AIHB. D-AIHB is just over 16 years old according to Airfleets.net. Its first flight was on the 10th of October 2003. Additionally, it has been in service with Lufthansa since its delivery on the 24th of October that same year.
The aircraft was due to depart at 17:25 CET. However, after a short delay on the ground, the aircraft took to the skies at 17:53, around half an hour behind schedule. The flight began as normal, climbing to 36,000 feet and flying towards the Atlantic. Once the transatlantic crossing had begun, the aircraft climbed 2000 feet to 38,000 feet.
Return to Germany
According to the Aviation Herald, the aircraft was over Greenland when it turned back towards Germany. However, Simple Flying cannot accurately confirm this as no tracking data is available for that portion of the flight. However, assuming it was at the halfway point during the lack of coverage, the aircraft would’ve turned back at around 21:30 UTC.
The aircraft then proceeded to fly back towards its origin. The Airbus A340 re-entered German Airspace at 01:35 CET. However, Frankfurt Airport has an incredibly strict curfew enforced between 23:00 and 05:00 based on the local time. As a result, the aircraft would not have been permitted to land at Frankfurt. Instead, the aircraft diverted to Cologne Airport.
2 Hour Bus To Frankfurt
According to the Aviation Herald, the passengers disembarking the Airbus A340 were bussed to Frankfurt. This journey typically takes around two hours, just a quarter of the time it took the passengers to get to Cologne. The publication added that passengers were rebooked onto alternate flights once they arrived back at the German Flag Carrier’s hub.
Lufthansa provided Simple Flying with a statement regarding the incident:
“LH404/09DEC Frankfurt-JFK, Airbus A346, registration DAIHB, did return to Frankfurt after 4 hours flight time due to technical hydraulic problems. The aircraft landed safe and normally in Cologne at 02:00/10DEC. The crew decided the return as a precautionary measure. There was never any danger during the whole flight.”
Were you on board flight LH404? Tell us your story in the comments!