On 29 December 2014, Virgin Flight VS43, a Boeing 747, developed a problem with its landing gear shortly after take-off from Gatwick airport which required it to dump fuel and perform an emergency landing back at the airfield with defective landing gear. Fortunately, the aircraft landed safely.
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 take-off. 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 skilful airmanship resulted in a safe landing. However, this process took a considerable time which would have been very traumatic for passengers.
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