Just before 5 pm yesterday evening, two aircraft came very close to colliding over central London. The incident involved a Malaysia Airlines A350-900 and a Virgin Atlantic B787-9. The Malaysian aircraft had departed from Kuala Lumpur, while the Virgin Atlantic aircraft was arriving from Shanghai. Thankfully a disaster was averted after intervention from air traffic controllers.
At around 1645 yesterday (23rd of October) The Malaysian Airlines flight MH4 was on approach to Heathrow’s west-facing runways. The aircraft went to land at Heathrow before going around. It is unclear what action caused the pilot to go around. As the aircraft was being vectored back round to rejoin the approach path, a Virgin B787 was also joining the approach to land at Heathrow. The Virgin flight (VS 251) was forced to take immediate action by turning south after the Malaysian jet failed to respond to a change of heading from the air traffic controllers. The Virgin B787 then executed a 360-degree turn before rejoining the approach behind the Malaysian jet.
The aircraft came within 3 miles separation of each other. This means at the speeds they were travelling, the aircraft would’ve been approximately 35 seconds from colliding. The Malaysian A350 can seat a total of 286 passengers, while the Virgin aircraft can seat 264. Had both aircraft been fully loaded, they would’ve carried a combined total of 550 passengers. Thankfully the aircraft did not collide due to the action that was taken by both the air traffic controllers and the Virgin crew. A collision between the two aircraft could’ve seen one of the deadliest air accidents of all time.
Airprox reports will reportedly be filed by both crews. An Airprox report is filed when two aircraft fly close to each other where an incident could have occurred. Just two days ago we reported about the closest airprox at Heathrow ever, which saw a drone come within 10ft of a different Virgin B787.
Speaking about the incident, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told UK Aviation News “We’re aware that an aircraft came within 3 miles of the VS251 earlier this evening and are working with the relevant authorities to understand how this could have happened.”
A NATS spokesperson added “We can confirm that there was a loss of separation last night (Tuesday 23 October) between two aircraft on approach to Heathrow Airport. This was resolved by the approach controller and both aircraft landed safely. Almost 2.5 million aircraft safely fly through the UK every year, and these types of incidents are extremely rare. The incident has been reported to the UK Airprox Board which will investigate the circumstances and publish its findings in due course.”
Thankfully a disaster was averted in this instance. Were you aware of the incident? Let us know in the comments below!