Case Study – Jet Blue Flight 292

Source: Wikipedia

On 21st September 2005, Jet Blue Airways flight 292, an Airbus 320 departed Burbank , California at 15:31, a non-stop flight to JFK, New York. However, it had to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport, California, at 1818 Pacific daylight time with the nose wheels cocked 90 degrees.

The airline captain, first officer, 4 flight attendants, and 141 passengers were on board the flight. 

The first officer (FO) was the pilot flying this sector, the pilots noted no problems during the initial departure and observed a positive rate of climb. Upon takeoff from Burbank, they realized that the landing gear could not get retracted and decided to fly low over Long Beach Municipal Airport (LGB),  (the location of a JetBlue hub) to allow officials in the airport’s control tower to assess the damage to its landing gear before attempting a landing. It was found that the nose wheel was rotated ninety degrees to the left, perpendicular to the direction of the fuselage. The pilot in command made the decision that the aircraft would land at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), in order to take advantage of its long, wide runways and modern safety equipment.

The flight crew noted an error message displayed on the Electric Centralized Aircraft Monitoring (ECAM) system. There was a fault (L/G Shock Absorber Fault) message for a Nose Landing Gear (NLG) shock absorber.

Source: Aerospaceweb.org

The main purpose of the shock absorbers which are installed on the landing gear of the aircraft is to cushion the aircraft’s weight when the landing gear touches the ground

Nose wheel steering’s internal cam mechanism is responsible for centering the wheels after takeoff before the landing gear is retracted.

When the landing gear is on ground, the shock absorbers are compressed, and when they are up they are extended.

(L/G Shock Absorber Fault) – This caution occurs when the shock absorber is not extended after liftoff, due to which NOSE WHEEL STEERING IS ALSO LOST IN SOME CASES (as in this case).

IMAGE COURTESY – FLIGHT MECHANIC.COM

The First Officer flew the airplane over Palmdale, California, at 14,000 feet mean sea level (msl) while the captain consulted the Flight Crew Operating Manual (FCOM) and maintenance control. The FCOM noted that the nose gear “may be caught at 90 degrees” due to nose wheel steering being unavailable, which was shortly confirmed by the ATC. 

The captain, after discussing the situation with company representatives, decided to divert to LAX because it had optimum field conditions, runway length, and a better emergency/abnormal support services. The crew flew for several hours to burn fuel so that they could land at a lighter weight.

The captain of Jet Blue Airways flight took note of the fuel burn to ensure that the center of gravity stayed within limits. The captain also advised the cabin crew that in the event that the nose gear collapsed, evacuation from the Aft doors would not be available so everyone would have to deplane from the forward exits. The flight crew advised the cabin crew to take the emergency procedures up to the point of egress, at which time the captain would advise the method.

Prior to touchdown, the captain announced “brace” and the flight attendants also transmitted “brace” over the public address system.

The captain flew the airplane for the landing, he touched down at 120 knots and applied normal braking at 90 knots. He held the nose gear off of the ground as long as possible, at 60 knots, the flight crew shut down the engines. They did not use ground spoilers, reverse thrust, or auto braking due to landing gear being abnormal. During the landing, the forward cabin crew could smell burnt rubber.

Upon touchdown, the NLG tires rapidly deflated and tore apart, and both wheels were worn into the axle. During landing, the airplane’s trajectory was not affected by the abnormal NLG configuration.

The cabin crew remained at their stations as previously defined by the captain. The ATC tower confirmed that there was no fire, and the captain announced this to the cabin crew. After this notification, the passengers deplaned normally using an air stair, no casualties were caused. It was a job well done…

 

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