Brand New Air France A220 Returns To Paris Squawking 7700

**UPDATE: 11/09/21 @ 14:50 UTC – ADDED STATEMENT FROM AIRLINE** Earlier on Monday, Air France’s second Airbus A220 was on its way to Nantes when it returned to Paris CDG shortly after take-off. While pilots declared an emergency by squawking 7700, little else was known about the dramatic first flight of the French flag carrier’s latest addition to its fleet. However, the airline has now confirmed the diversion was due to a cabin pressurization malfunction.

Air France A220
A sparkling new Air France Airbus A220 returned to Paris shortly after departure on Monday. Photo: Airbus

A quick first trip

While on its first flight after delivery from the manufacturer’s facilities in Montreal, Air France’s latest Airbus A220 today returned to its origin of departure shortly after take-off. The plane’s pilots declared an emergency, setting the transponder to 7700, and landed back at Paris Charles de Gaulle 50 minutes after departure.

The A220 registered as F-HZUC was operating flight AK610K on its way from CDG to Nantes in the west of France. The scheduled time of departure was 15:07. Meanwhile, the aircraft took off at 15:25. It first headed west but having reached 9,000 feet, it made a sharp turn north and then back east only nine minutes into the flight.

The aircraft then circled around and landed back in Paris a little over half an hour later. Air France had scheduled the plane to continue on to Lille and Strasbourg before returning to Paris at 21:18 local time this evening. However, it currently remains on the ground at CDG. Air France provided Simple Flying with the following statement:

“Air France confirms that following a technical problem (cabin pressurization malfunction) that occurred shortly after takeoff, the crew of the non-commercial crew training flight AF610K, from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Nantes on November 8, 2021, decided to return to Paris. The aircraft landed normally at 3:52 pm (local time), 27 minutes after takeoff. As this was a training flight, there were no customers on board. The aircraft was taken over by Air France maintenance teams.” 

The A220 in question was delivered only two days ago, making the transatlantic crossing from Airbus’ factory in Montreal, Canada. Photo: Airbus

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Delayed delivery

F-HZUC just arrived with the airline from the Airbus A220 final assembly line in Mirabel, an off-island suburb of Montreal in Quebec. It is only Air France’s second A220 to be delivered, the first arriving in September this year. However, the carrier is expecting an additional 58 of the increasingly popular type.

Meanwhile, F-HZUC must have joined the fleet slightly later than expected, as Air France had scheduled not one but two A220s for flights planned for October 31st. The flights on the second A220s agenda, to Milan Linate and Madrid, were operated instead by an A319 and an A320.

Air France A320
Air France had to replace the A220 with A320s and A319s on the schedule when it was late to be delivered. Photo: Getty Images

Squawking 7700

7700 is a squawk code that is reserved for emergencies. When a pilot sets their transponder to this four-digit code, it immediately signals that the aircraft is in distress to all surrounding Air Traffic Control, triggering an audible alarm at the controller’s station. The aircraft’s tag will also flash with ‘EM’ for emergency.

While crews may declare emergencies at events such as loss of cabin pressure, it also happens on less dramatic occasions that do however need to be resolved and granted special attention from ATC. The radio call ‘Pan Pan’ signifies an ‘urgent’ situation that requires swift but not necessarily immediate attention. ‘Mayday’, on the other hand, declares a distress situation, meaning that the aircraft is in immediate danger.