This is when a pilot earns his flying pay

A Boeing 787 was coming in to land at London’s Heathrow Airport last week during a winter storm.  It got caught by turbulence (possibly wind shear) during the last few feet of its descent, and almost went out of control.  Full marks to the pilots for getting out of that mess.

A brown-trouser moment for sure, to the observers.  I’m not sure whether the passengers realized what a close call they’d had.  Kudos to the flight crew for their quick reactions.



  1. Very much so.

    And Heathrow is a terrible airport from the viewpoint of runway/passenger ratio. It only has two runways, both parallel, with lots of built up area nearby. Although there is a plan to add a third runway, which Parliament has approved.

    And two of the terminals are really hard to get to from the others, which also doesn't help. Fortunately, most Star Alliance airlines are in T2, and most Skyteam are in T4. But Oneworld has BA in T5, and a lot of the rest of Oneworld (along with some other stuff) is in T3 — and that's a long change.

  2. Shear happens on all axis. Vertical is well-known around thunderstorms, instantly changing altitude, losing or gaining thousands of feet. However…

    I was running an O2 in SEA during the excitements.
    Seconds before touching, I transitioned a horizontal shear from 90˚ relative, then instantly transitioned a shear from 270˚, then 90 again, back-and-forth for half my runway, port wing-tip pointing to the sky to starboard wing-tip up, gnarly.

    All in a day's pay.

  3. IIRC, both the instruments and controls on a modern pass jet are several seconds behind reality, so there is no such thing as "quick reactions" because if you're reacting, you're already too late.(I defer to the rated CATPs in the crowd with better information.)

    It looks rather like he missed his approach and simply executed an immediate go-around.

    What the plane looked like from outside was more or less secondary.

  4. Control surfaces do react very quickly as they are boosted. Odds are the pilot 'felt' the pitch down, pulled hard on the yoke, and added power at the same time as the nose came up. The runway impact was 'minimal' all things considered, and he/she didn't get into a pilot induced pitch oscillation, which would have probably resulted in a crash.

  5. I learned at one point that Boeing passenger jets all have a conveniently placed "TO/GA" that automates the initial part of the process of "take off, go around" should anything get hinky during landing.

    As a passenger on 737 jets that have had to do so, it was pretty obvious to me when we were almost down and then suddenly we were 15° pitch up and 85% throttle.

    I took that as a good thing, other than of course it meant that I would be a little later getting out to the parking lot than I had initially thought.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *