Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Miraculous no-gear landing of SP-LPC

Half past two in the afternoon just gone; after lunch; time for a walk to the cemetery to photograph the graves in their All Saints' Day finery. But what's this? A Boeing 767 is coming into land - but where's the undercarriage?

Below: the plane, a LOT Polish Airlines Boeing 767-300ER, SP-LPC, at its closest to our house. I have never seen a plane this close to the runway threshold (a mere 4,500 metres away) with flaps fully extended but landing gear still in.

The plane passes over, getting ever-nearer the runway... and - no still sign of the wheels... Note the tail skid extended (click on photo above to see in detail).

Below: rapidly disappearing from view. I race indoors to switch on Flightradar24.com; by the time the page is live, there's no sign of the plane. So I assume there was no go-round; maybe the gear came out at the last minute? At this stage, the plane must be 2,000 metres or less from the threshold and 200 metres or less above the ground.

En route to the cemetery, the sky was filled by the roar of fast jets. I could just make out the shape of an F-16 flying south-west. At this stage, I had not put one and one together. A pair of F-16s had been called out of Łask air force base to check visually whether or not the gear was out.

Later, Moni called me on the mobile to say that a plane had landed gear-up at Okęcie and everybody safe - thank God! Putting down an aircraft like the 767 without wheels is incredibly difficult.

The part of the aircraft that must touch the ground first is the rear fuselage. If the angle of attack is too shallow, the first things that touches the ground are the engines; as soon as that happens, the nose flips down instantly. If the angle of attack is too great, the plane is in danger of stalling and literally falling out of the sky onto its tail. So - quite rightly, LOT's Captain Tadeusz Wrona must be lauded as the hero of the day.

[Amazing photo here]

[BBC news report here]

Looking at the pics again - spooky. Fill me with dread - and yet huge relief that a tragedy had been averted.

Forty-eight years ago, nearly to the day, my father photographed a Douglas DC-8 that had crash-landed wheels-up near Heathrow Airport. Pics and story here. (Incidentally, after a similar landing, that DC-8 lived to fly again, only to crash again, this time with fatal results.)

This time three years ago:
Where's the daylight gone?

This time five years ago:
All Saints' Day - Wszystkich Świętych


student SGH said...

Was it coming in to touch down from the east?

Accolades for the pilot. Great to be pround of Polish aviators again

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Bartek - coming in from the south-south-east (runway 33, ie. heading of 330 degrees)

toyah said...

I knew it! I knew you would go for it. We watched it on the telly, and I instantly thought of you. Very impressive.