A WestJet Boeing 737-800 performed a flapless landing at Deer Lake Regional Airport (YDF) due to a mechanical problem. The incident happened yesterday at around 17:00 local time as the crew was preparing to land.
The aircraft, with registration number C-GWSA, was performing flight number WS-518 from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) to Deer Lake in Newfoundland and Labrador. Altogether, 34 people were flying on the jet.
The crew entered a holding pattern
According to The Aviation Herald, as the pilots were preparing to land on Deer Lakes runway 25, the crew advised Deer Lake’s flight services that they could not extend the aircraft’s flaps. The team immediately put the plane into a holding pattern going around the airport while they went through the relevant checklists.
The crew members were unable to resolve the problem despite consulting with maintenance personnel on the ground. Therefore they concluded that they would not be able to determine the flaps issue and declared a PAN-PAN. This is the international standard urgency signal that someone aboard a boat, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle uses to declare that they have an urgent situation. Still, it does not pose an immediate danger to anyone’s life or to the vessel itself.
In the end, the pilots performed an uneventful flapless landing at a higher than average speed. The Canadain Transport and Safety Board later reported that aircraft maintenance workers had replaced a faulty flap SKEW sensor and the number four connector.
What is a flapless landing
The title pretty much says everything; it is a landing performed without deploying the aircraft’s flaps. Flaps on the wing’s trailing edge are there to increase the size of the wings surface and create lift at slower airspeeds, while also creating drag to help the aircraft slow down as it lands.
Commercial pilots will only perform a no flaps landing when a mechanical failure stops them from deploying the flaps. Rest assured, though, as they all have been trained to perform a no flaps landing.
The average landing speed for a Boeing 737-800 with flaps deployed is about 145 knots, but this can be higher depending on the plane’s weight. The number of flaps deployed can also vary due to crosswinds and wind shear. When landing without flaps, the speed on a 737-800 is more like 200 knots. With the increased pace, it is essential for pilots to select the longest available runway and to use the brakes in such a way so as not to overheat them and risk them catching fire.
It can happen
While not common, flapless landings do happen now and then, as you can see in this video of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Ultimately, there have been no reports of injuries during yesterday’s incident.
Have you ever flown a flapless landing while onboard a commercial airliner? Did the pilot make an announcement first, saying that you would be landing faster than usual? Please let us know all about your experience in the comments.