A flight by United Airlines experienced navigational failure — and the results were frightening.
Airplane and failure are two words that should never be in the same sentence. Imagine being on board a plane that experiences total failure of navigation equipment! It might may you never want to fly again.
Fortunately, one United Airlines flight that was in that predicament landed safely. And the passengers couldn’t be more pleased, that’s for sure.
Not everybody can be a pilot or a crew member, that’s for sure. It requires skill, focus, and a whole lot of courage.
In an article for USA Today, John Cox explained the steps pilots take in the event of an emergency. Above all, it’s important to keep emotions in check and to allay the fears of those on board.
“While training, pilots experience high-stress situations and are expected to follow procedures resulting in a safe landing,” Cox said. “During the actual emergency, you are focused on flying the airplane, ensuring the flight path remains safe, following the checklists, reprogramming the Flight Management Computer, advising air traffic controllers, advising the passengers of the revised flight plan, advising the company of the return, briefing the approach procedure – and finally, executing the approach to a safe landing.”
Where Was The Flight Going?
The flight was departing the United States and was on its way to Britain.
According to Simple Flying, “on January 6th, a United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER flying from Newark to London reported that it had lost its navigation capabilities after climbing to 17,000 feet. The crew was forced to declare an emergency, dump fuel, and return to the origin airport.”
The Flight Was Already Late Departing New Jersey
The plane was a bit delayed on departure.
Simple Flying reported that United Airlines Flight 940 was on its way to Heathrow International Airport in London.
It “departed Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey at 22:22 (or 10:22 PM).”
It was supposed to leave about thirty minutes earlier.
But those on board would soon realize the delay was minuscule compared to what was to come.
When Did The Issue Start?
After takeoff, the pilots “got clearance to climb 17,000 feet towards the waypoint known as MERIT.”
This is where the terminology gets even more technical, so bear with us.
Simple Flying explained, “the crew requested a heading (compass direction) to the waypoint, reporting that they had no navigation available.”
“Making attempts to solve the problem, the crew stopped the climb at 14,000 feet, and requested delay vectors. This means the crew was essentially requesting that air traffic control direct them on a path that would delay their journey in a safe manner.”
The Plane Had To Circle A Bit
The plane circled around Bedford (New York) “then straddled the state line between New York and Connecticut.”
Simple Flying wrote, “unfortunately, with the crew unable to solve the problem, an emergency was declared, and air traffic control was advised that the flight would require vectors all the time.”
After a fuel dump, the plane turned back to Newark. When it touched down on the runaway, it was approximately an hour after departure.
Passengers were transported to a replacement aircraft that safely took them to London.
The Plane Returned To Service Eventually
After being kept on the ground for “some nine hours, it was returned to service with a flight the next morning on January 7th, just before 09:00 local time.”
This particular style of aircraft (Boeing 767-300ER) became part of the United Airlines fleet in 1993.
Fortunately, it’s had very few problems.