If you’re traveling through London/Heathrow today, you might want to call your airline and see if things are running on time. They haven’t exactly had the best of luck there these last couple of days.
See, yesterday a British Airways 777 landed on the grass before it got to the concrete, skidded, and ended up stopping right at the threshold to one of Heathrow’s two runways, as you can see below.
Everyone got off ok, and that’s pretty amazing. I spent the day yesterday going back and forth with a bunch of airline dork friends discussing what could have possibly caused this to happen. The weather was good and there weren’t any visibility issues, so that’s unlikely to have been the problem. There were reports that the engines failed, so what would have caused it? Did it run out of fuel? Maybe, though unlikely. It didn’t catch on fire, so that’s always possible.
I know, I should really keep out of this whole speculation game. Remember that potential “undular bore” that the Air Canada plane may have hit? Well, there are now reports that it could have been wake turbulence from a 747 passing in front of it. Not nearly as interesting, but certainly plausible. So, it makes me want to reserve judgment on this accident even though it’s so interesting.
The Daily Mail, however, has no problem speculating that it may have been a bird strike that shut down both engines simultaneously just a minute before landing. They have a bunch of incredible pictures and more details on the site. The odds of that seem so unbelievably small. It made me wonder which was more unlikely: that scenario or Randy Johnson hitting a bird over home plate with his fastball a few years back.
Well, it doesn’t matter. They’ll figure it out soon enough, I’m sure. It’s interesting to note that this is the first major accident I can think of involving a 777. That’s a very long and impressive safety record.
But back to my original point. That plane is still sitting at the threshold to the runway, so it may cause delays. Right now, I believe the runway is open to departing flights. (“And please don’t look to your right, ladies and gentlemen.”) Yesterday, when the runway was closed, most short haul flights were canceled or diverted so that long hauls could run. I imagine that the runway may need to close on and off for investigation and removal, so short haul flights may be affected again.