A Perth-bound Qantas Dreamliner returned to Sydney on Monday after the pilots reported a gear issue. There were 110 passengers and crew on the flight. Despite some possible communication issues between the aircraft and ATC, the flight landed back in Sydney without incident.
Qantas pilots flag gear issue just after take-off
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (registration VH-ZNH) was operating the mid-morning 10:25 QF645 flight between Sydney (SYD) and Perth (PER) on Monday. It normally takes about five hours to cross the country, but VH-ZNH was back on the ground 32 minutes after departing.
According to a report by Simon Hradecky in The Aviation Herald, QF645 departed normally. The Dreamliner took off from Sydney’s main runway 16R, heading south over Kurnell and out to sea. However, the pilots stopped the climb at 9,000 feet, reporting a gear issue.
Flight tracking websites show the aircraft climbing relatively slowly. Around five miles off the coast, VH-ZNH stopped the climb and veered due east, further out to sea. At this point, the Aviation Herald says the pilots reported an issue with the gear and decided to return to Sydney.
The plane then turned north and tracked up the coast to Pittwater when it turned west, headed back onshore and overflew the Ku-ring-gai National Park before lining up for an approach back into Sydney Airport.
News report raises possible communication issues
The Qantas pilots advised Sydney ATC a normal landing was expected, and they required no emergency services. When ATC asked whether the gear was locked down with the “three greens” showing, the pilots replied in the negative. Three greens is a term that refers to the indicator lights on the landing display that confirms the gear is extended and locked down. According to The Aviation Herald, the pilots also replied in the negative when ATC asked if the gear was fully retracted.
The Dreamliner made the normal approach over Sydney’s North Shore before landing safely at 11:03. The flight was canceled. Passengers transferred onto later Perth services. VH-ZNH remains on the ground in Sydney.
The Dreamliner incident in Sydney was the first of two aircraft returns Qantas would deal with on Monday. An hour or two later, VH-VZF, a Boeing 737-800, departed Darwin (DRW) bound for Perth, operating QF849. Thirty minutes out of Darwin, approaching the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, the pilots turned around, citing technical issues.
Qantas keeps its 787-9 Dreamliners busy
VH-ZNH Great Barrier Reef was delivered to Qantas in November 2018, making it one of the airline’s youngest 787-9 Dreamliners. Monday’s landing gear issue is the first recorded incident involving the plane. Qantas currently has the bulk of its Dreamliner fleet flying.
Normally, Qantas uses the Dreamliners on its international network. However, aside from repatriation and flights to New Zealand, Qantas’ international flights are paused. That’s seen Dreamliners deployed onto some routes they are not normally seen on, such as the SYD-PER run. Typically, Qantas uses a combination of Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 aircraft on this route. Now, there are two Perth-bound 787-9 departures from Sydney every morning and two afternoon return flights from Perth.
Before Monday’s scheduled Perth flight, VH-ZNH has spent most of June jetting between Sydney and Tokyo, operating cargo flights. The aircraft had a different schedule in May, operating repatriation services from cities such as London, Frankfurt, and New Delhi.