Thursday, September 22, 2005

JetBlue Flight 292

If you want spectacular news footage or wild speculation about flight 292, check your local TV station. This entry is about how pilots react to news such as today's emergency landing of an Airbus A320, with an abnormally positioned nose gear.

First, we tell each other. Someone in the crewroom received a text message. He read it aloud, "turn on CNN now." There was a quiet moment where many of us thought about another time we'd all watched airplanes on CNN, but we a quick check of revealed that the Airbus was circling near LAX with a gear problem. We started my mocking reporter-speak: the "front landing gear" was stuck sideways, so the pilots were going to try landing on the the "back landing gear." I suppose those terms make a lot more sense to the public than "nose gear" and "main gear." But perhaps they could mention that pilots usually aim to land on the mains. It's bad form (as in serious aircraft damage) not to.

There was a TV available so we proceded to watch live coverage of the aircraft circling, dumping fuel, and no doubt allowing the pilots to conference with company maintenance and Airbus technical staff. They kept cutting back to earlier footage where you could see that the nose gear ("the front wheels") were turned completely sideways: ninety degrees to the direction of travel. We drowned out the repetitive, information-free media commentary ("no doubt a very stressful situation for the pilots and passengers, Bob") with our own voiceovers: mock PAs, mock cellphone conversations by the passengers, mock French-accented technical recommendations from Airbus techs, and armchair quarterbacking ("they should go to Edwards Airforce base" and "they should have more flaps down by now").

On final approach, it came down to: would the gear shear off or just catch fire? Either way it would be a shower of sparks, followed by a closed runway, and a flurry of passengers complaining about their luggage and calling lawyers.

If you didn't see it, it was a beautiful landing, with the airplane perfectly centred on the runway, the mains touching down at about the thousand foot marks and the gear skidding, smoking, flaming, blazing right down the centreline to a full stop. It didn't collapse, and neither did Airbus Industries. I hope I would do as well with an equivalent emergency in what I fly. And no doubt tomorrow it will be heralded in the papers as a miracle, rather than design and skill.


dibabear said...

Yay for the pilots! And zat damned French Airbus. Where are your fly-by-wire computers now, hu hu! :-)

Peter said...

Pilots are the best.... well second to spotters ;)

Nick said...

The in-flight TV really is getting beat up in the press. Do you think the cabin crew should have turned off JetBlue's DirecTV?

I posted some thoughts on my in-flight entertainment blog at If you like the content, I'd love to get a link from your links bar on the left!

Cheers, Nick Gray

silver horde said...

I was watching too. dh fell asleep, the commentry being so repetative and missed the landing.
Well done that pilot. I liked the phrase that one pilot used."you're only as good as your last landing"

Anoynmous said...

With all those hours of circling to burn fuel, my wife wondered why they didn't just go ahead and fly to the original destination, then do the emergency landing there. I told her I didn't think they would want to try going very far very fast with the gear extended.

I think the only way that landing could have been any better is if the pilot had set the nose gear down in the bed of a pickup truck speeding down the runway.

Lisa said...

The story made it over to this side of the pond too.

I know very little about aviation but I was impressed by that landing.

aasmodeus said...

Thanks, that really was interesting for me to see a pilot's view! It certainly seems more interesting than an IT professional's view of, say, the latest piece of tax software to hit the news.

aasmodeus said...

Oh, P.S. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'm in IT.