BA117 Emergency Landing at Heathrow

You may or may not have seen the reports of a British Airways emergency landing all over the media yesterday (2nd October 2010). This is yet another example of complete incompetency on behalf of the media.

The story goes that a handle on a cabin door was seen to be moving and this caused an emergency landing. Rubbish. What happened was a precautionary landing on British Airways Flight 117.

I have mentioned many times how the whole aviation industry works with a ‘just in case’ attitude, and this is all this is. Due to the fact that it’s important an aircraft door remains firmly shut during a flight, the BA pilots made the decision to return to Heathrow when it was seen that the handle was moving.

Following this, that door will be checked, checked again, and checked for a third time before that aircraft will be allowed to fly again.

There was no emergency landing, just a decision to return to Heathrow and get it looked at. The aircraft taxied back to it’s stand with no problems, and passengers disembarked as normal.

Smoke Under the Wing

This did not happen. Apparently ONE passenger was nervous because her fiancé thought he saw smoke under the wing. Nobody else saw it, so I’m guessing it was not smoke at all. It was probably vapour trails from travelling through moist air.

A precautionary landing is not an emergency landing, and is not even worthy of all this inaccurate reporting in the UK media. Unfortunately it’s simply another example of how the media can breed a fear of flying.

Inaccurate Reporting of Flight BA117

More facts have been emerging and it now appears that the only problem with flight BA117 was a faulty indicator in the flight deck that was warning the pilots that one of the doors was open. The door was not open at any time but as a precaution the pilots – for obvious reasons – decided to return to Heathrow immediately to get the door checked out.

As I’ve previously mentioned, the aircraft taxied back to stand completely normally and passengers got off the aircraft in a completely normal manner.

I have seen some amazing and ridiculous reports in the media today, the worst of which appeared in a tabloid newspaper. It was so misinformed that I am not even prepared to give a link to the article. However, they reported that the door was opening, and the cabin crew and passengers were fighting to keep it closed. Further to this, they reported that the engines were on fire.

There was even a supposed statement from an aviation expert stating that passengers could have been sucked out the aircraft. This is not true. Even if the door had opened, at such a low altitude it would not have caused too much of a problem.

At higher altitudes it is IMPOSSIBLE to open an aircraft door due to the design and the outside air pressure. Therefore, this aviation expert was either not an expert at all, or was misquoted.

With regards to fire, this simply did not happen and was completely fabricated by the reporter. There is a photo on another website of the moment the aircraft landed, and there is nothing out of the ordinary happening.

The facts are this;

  • Flight BA117 departed Heathrow.
  • Shortly after departure a warning goes off in the flight deck to say one of the cabin doors is open
  • The pilots decide to instantly return to Heathrow to get the problem looked at
  • Following the landing the plane taxied to it’s stand, and the passengers were taken back into the terminal.
  • The flight departed on another aircraft later.

Anything else you read from uninformed, lazy, and irresponsible journalists should be ignored at all costs.

3 responses to “BA117 Emergency Landing at Heathrow”

  1. I was on this flight. Sure, it was a bit scary to know that we were landing but not really knowing why. However, we were at no point in any danger. Even if that door had opened, it would not have caused any problems because 1. we weren’t at high altitude and 2. the door is designed to crack open a small bit in order to let smoke out of the cabin if ever necessary. Passengers saying that they say smoke under the wing may have been telling the truth. However, the only reason for this would have been due to the reverse throttling of the engines to help slow the plane down. The co-pilot that I spoke to said that this helps to reduce the strain on the breaks.

    It annoys me to see this story sensationalised by the media.

    • Thank you for taking the time to respond to this Danielle. I was desperately hoping someone who was on the flight would read this and write something!

      It has annoyed me too that the media have sensationalised this story. The sad thing is many people would have read the reports and believed them to be true. When I read the reports – especially one I saw in The News of the World – I knew instantly that they were largely fabricated. I only knew this due to the fact I work in the aviation industry. It scares me to think that many people who do not know anything about this industry will take these reports as fact.

      With regards to the story of passengers seeing smoke, I hadn’t thought of reverse thrust as a reason. I was presuming they were talking about during the flight and not whilst on the ground. So yes, it probably was reverse thrust that caused any smoke. The plane would have been very heavy after such a short flight.

      Thank you once again for your comments.

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