‘Full Investigation Vital’ After Virgin Atlantic Flight’s Emergency Landing At Gatwick Airport

Legal Experts Praise Crew’s Skill In Safe Landing But Question Cause Of Landing Gear Problems


Specialist aviation lawyers have urged air authorities to work quickly to determine the cause of a technical problem which led a Virgin Atlantic flight to Las Vegas to return to Gatwick Airport to make an emergency landing last week, after praising the skill of the pilots involved in the incident.

Gatwick Airport told the Press Association that “some minor injuries” were reported following the incident last Monday (December 29th), when the Boeing 747 carrying 447 passengers and 15 crew experienced the issue.

Flight VS43 was forced to dump fuel prior to the landing, in order to ensure it was light enough to land at the airport. The problems led to disruption at the airport, with other flights having to be cancelled or diverted as a result of the problem.

Passengers on the flight praised the crew for their actions, with Virgin president Sir Richard Branson joining them in thanking them for a safe landing.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law team provide legal advice and support to people who have suffered injuries in air accidents in the UK and abroad, as well as acting for the families of those who have died in such incidents.

Expert Opinion
The procedure for an emergency landing due to a defective landing gear carries significant risk and requires a high level of skill from the crew to achieve a safe landing - the actions of the crew on this flight must be applauded.

"This particular case was notable as the problem with the landing gear was noticed shortly after takeoff. This meant that the aircraft had a full fuel load for the flight to the US, meaning that it was above its maximum landing weight even for fully operational landing gear.

"As such, the crew needed to dump a significant amount of fuel not only to reach a normal landing weight, but also to ensure that on landing there was minimum fuel in the tanks. This reduces the aircraft weight which means there is less strain on the landing gear on touch down and also enables the aircraft to touch down at a lower speed, which also reduces the gear strain and associated risks further.

"The dumping of fuel combined with the correct emergency drills and a skilful landing resulted in a safe landing. However, this process took a considerable time which would have been very traumatic for passengers. Through our work on behalf of passengers who have suffered physical and psychological injuries in emergency landings, we have seen how traumatic such incidents can be for those involved.

"Attention must now turn to discovering precisely what was the issue with the landing gear and whether it could have been avoided. Considerations will include whether this was a design or manufacturing defect in any of the components or possibly a maintenance or other issue. It is vital that a full investigation is held to ensure that all of the questions in relation to the incident can be answered as a quickly as possible so that lessons can be learned and any necessary flight safety improvements implemented."
Jim Morris, Partner