A UTair Boeing 737 made a dramatic U-turn en route from Moscow to Berlin yesterday. The aircraft was over halfway to its destination, however, it returned to Moscow with an air conditioning problem.
What is interesting is that the aircraft had already crossed the halfway point in its journey, meaning that it could’ve continued on to its destination. Had the problem been serious, it likely would’ve diverted to Kaunas. It is likely that the airline did not want to use the services of third-party mechanics in Berlin. While the problem may not have necessarily needed an emergency landing, it could have been that the aircraft could not take off with the problem.
Yesterday’s flight was operated by a UTair Boeing 737-800. Flight UT-705 was due to fly from Moscow to Berlin. Indeed, the flight was scheduled to depart at 10:55, however, it remained on the ground delayed, eventually departing at 11:23.
The flight was due to arrive in Berlin at 12:45, however, just past Kaunas a problem was detected with the aircraft’s air conditioning system. This is according to the AvHerald. The aircraft briefly squawked 7700 signifying an emergency, however, quickly reverted to its assigned squawk.
Rather than continuing on to Berlin, or diverting to Kaunas, the Pilots opted to turn the aircraft around with a 180 to the right. The aircraft then descended to flight level 31,000 for the trip back to Moscow. By the time the aircraft turned around, it had already passed the halfway point. However, it had not passed the point of no return.
The aircraft involved in the incident is registered as VQ-BDH. According to Airfleets.Net, the aircraft is 18.4 years old. While some aircraft will only be owned by one airline across their lifetime, this Boeing 737-800 has been owned by eight different entities.
Why turn around?
So why did the Boeing 737-800 turn around rather than diverting or continuing on? Well, as mentioned previously, the issue was likely not deemed severe enough to warrant landing the plane immediately. However, the fact that the pilots squawked 7700 indicates that there may have been some initial worry.
The aircraft could have easily managed to fly to Berlin, as the flight would’ve been slightly shorter than the return to Moscow. However, the aircraft likely needed the problem fixed to be deemed airworthy for a future flight.
Had the aircraft continued on to Berlin, a third-party would’ve had to complete the maintenance. This could prove costly for the carrier and previously saw LOT Polish passengers having to pay for repairs in China.
Instead, by returning the aircraft to Moscow, UTair will have been able to keep the maintenance in house, and thus reduce the costs associated. While the incident occurred yesterday, the aircraft was already back in the air today.
What do you make of UTair’s Boeing 737-800 U-turn? Let us know in the comments!