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Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Pilots praised for crash landing
Emergency landing of Virgin Atlantic jet
Plane's wheels failed to open properly
By the BBC's Tom Symonds

A Virgin Atlantic pilot has been praised in an official report for managing to land his plane at Heathrow after part of its undercarriage failed to come down.

Captain Tim Barnby was able to bring the Airbus to a halt without injuring any of the 97 passengers on board, following the emergency in 1997.

Captain Tim Barnby
Captain Tim Barnby was hailed as a hero
He and his crew realised they had a problem as they approached Heathrow after a long flight from Los Angeles. The left hand landing gear of the Airbus A340 jammed and would not lock into place.

After warning passengers, Captain Tim Barnby made a low level flight past the Heathrow control tower to allow engineers on the ground to take a look.

But running low on fuel he was forced to make an emergency landing - holding the left wing of the plane up to stop it hitting the ground.

The only injuries were suffered as passengers were evacuated. They thanked the pilot for getting them home safely.

Praise

The first many knew of the emergency was when Captain Barnby told them over the intercom that he was preparing to fly at low level past Heathrow's control tower so engineers on the ground could examine the plane's undercarriage.

The Air Accident investigation report reveals a locking pin was the source of the problem - it fell from the Airbus on take off from Los Angeles.


It's all in a day's work

Captain Tim Barnby

That allowed part of the braking mechanism to swing free, which jammed the wheels.

Investigators examining the plane found the locking pin had become bent under the strain of landings but it has now been redesigned and new testing procedures have been ordered.

Pilots may practice landing with part of the undercarriage missing in a simulator, but not many have done it for real.

Following the incident in 1997 Captain Barnby denied his actions were "heroic".

He said it was "all in a day's work".

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