Earlier this morning, an incident was reported by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) after an inbound flight to Melbourne approached the runway without its landing gear deployed.
What do we know about the incident?
According to the report, the incident happened at 08:04 EST when Vietnam Airlines flight VN781 from Ho Chi Minh City to Melbourne Airport was on its approach to land. As it came closer to the runway, the ATSB said:
“Melbourne Air Traffic Control advised the crew that the aircraft’s landing gear was observed not to be extended.”
At that point, Flight Radar 24 shows that the aircraft had dropped to 650ft before crew engaged a “missed approach” (ATSB statement) and ascended 4,100ft within five minutes. It came into land 22 minutes after Flight Radar 24 recorded the flight’s lowest point.
Had this landing gear failure not been noticed, the aircraft could have been seconds from disaster. Not only can landing this way cause serious damage to the aircraft at best, it can also cause wings and fuel lines to rupture, resulting in a fire. This was the final fate of the Sukhoi Superjet which crashed on 5th May claiming the lives of 41 people.
A suggestion of foul play?
But whilst landing gear can fail to deploy as a result of an electrical fault, also known as a belly-landing, there is a suggestion that this incident was what’s known as a gear-up landing, which occurs as a result of pilot error.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, a pilot who declined to be named since they work for a major airline, spoke of how Vietnam Airlines’ pilot should have been alerted on the descent that the landing gear was not deployed.
“They are less than a minute from touchdown…They should have received an alert that the gear was not down.”
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The aircraft was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner with the registration VN-A870 and was delivered to the airline in November 2016, according to Air Fleets.
Despite Boeing claiming “industry-leading technology” in its 787 Dreamliner, the aircraft has had a number of issues. In July this year, Simple Flying reported that the 787 Dreamliner was being probed by the US Department of Justice, with issues relating to poor production.
But there have also been issues with the Dreamliner, including:
- an emergency engine surge on a Norwegian Air Shuttle service
- a door seal leak on a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo to Bangkok
- smoke in the aircraft cabin on a United Airlines flight.
It seems that the Dreamliner may not be all that dreamy, but in this case, it’s not yet clear which party is to blame.
The investigation is still in the early stages, with the ATSB in its evidence collection process as it gathers additional information from the flight crew. The investigation is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2020 where it will produce an eight-page document of its findings. It said:
“Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify those affected and seek safety action to address the issue.”
In a press release sent to Simple Flying, Vietnam Airlines made a short statement which said:
“Immediately after the flight, Vietnam Airlines representatives in Australia started working closely with the Australian Transport Safety Commission (ATSB). Safety is the utmost priority of Vietnam Airlines, and the airline is committed to supporting investigations into this matter.”
Do you think there should be additional procedures in place for landing gear deployment? Let us know in the comments!