Last week, on March 14th, a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300 was climbing out of London Heathrow when the aircraft’s landing gear failed to completely retract. Because of this, the aircraft had to burn off some fuel and return to Heathrow.
Safe landing completed upon return to Heathrow
The aircraft was intending to fly from London Heathrow to Miami as VS117. However, the A330’s landing gear failed to completely retract as it climbed up to FL070. According to The Aviation Herald, the left-hand main gear did not indicate that it was locked in the up position.
The Aviation Herald also reports that the crew attempted to rectify the problem by re-cycling the landing gear. Unfortunately, this proved unsuccessful and the aircraft was forced to return to Heathrow after it burned off fuel to achieve a safe landing weight. Emergency services received the aircraft. However, this was thankfully not necessary as the plane landed safely.
A replacement Dreamliner was arranged to take passengers to Miami. The aircraft was a Boeing 787-9 registration G-VWHO performing the flight as VS5. The aircraft arrived in Miami about 3 hours after the scheduled arrival of VS117.
Incident aircraft details
The aircraft involved in the incident is an Airbus A330-300. The registration of the jet is G-VWAG, assigned the nickname Miss England. According to Airfleets, the A330 is seven and a half years old and has spent its entire life outside the factory with Virgin Atlantic.
The occurrence aircraft was still on the ground in London up until Mar 20th. Then, on Friday, March 20th it completed a flight from London Heathrow to Lagos, Nigeria as VS411. It departed Lagos today for the return trip to the UK as VS412.
Virgin Atlantic’s fleet modernization
Virgin Atlantic has selected the A330neo to replace its current fleet of A330ceos. The airline ordered 14 A330-900s, making the announcement at the Paris Air Show, June 2019. These aircraft will join the fleet from 2021. Virgin Atlantic also has options to further expand its fleet. The firm order of 14 is for eight aircraft with an additional six on lease from Air Lease Corporation (ALC).
Virgin Atlantic has been continually modernizing its fleet. Last August, the airline took delivery of its first Airbus A350-1000 at a handing over ceremony held in Toulouse, France. The airline now has five of the longer A350 variant.
These aircraft have mainly been flying between London Heathrow and New York JFK. We found out last year that Virgin Atlantic’s A350 was to begin service between Heathrow and Los Angeles next month. However, that is unlikely given the current situation.
Unfortunately, most of Virgin Atlantic’s fleet will likely be on the ground for several weeks to come.