Sir- In response to N Malle's letter (Flight International, 8-14 January, P37), about the landing of a damaged Fokker 50 at Heathrow in December, I would like to make the following points.

Landing-gear failure was apparent on final approach. By the time the aircraft had been manoeuvred in an attempt to lock the gear, and technical advice had been obtained by radio, there was insufficient fuel to divert.

Heathrow was aware that its 400ft (100m) cloud base was better than Gatwick and Stansted at 200ft. A Mayday was declared at 12.39. The aircraft commander's decision was not questioned once the emergency had been declared. Flightcrews are usually thankful for this understanding.

The UK Air Accident and Investigation Branch released the aircraft for recovery at 16.30 and the runway was opened at 20.42. Every recovery requires time and patience, in addition to expertise, and Heathrow thanks the British Airways recovery team, which did a splendid job.

This was a rare occurrence for Heathrow: nevertheless, we offer our apologies to those who were inconvenienced.

Mike Seller

Airside Operations Manager

Heathrow Airport, London, UK.



Sir-We are sure that many pilots would be concerned with Mr Malle's comments. Pilots are trained to consider safety as paramount, when an aircraft has a major malfunction. The Fokker 50 captain obviously considered all the options available to him and decided that Heathrow offered the best conditions for a landing with a major undercarriage problem.

The fact that all the passengers and crew were able to escape injury, when the undercarriage collapsed on landing, justifies the captain's decision, no matter how inconvenient it was to other aircraft using Heathrow.

If captains were to consider commercial implications while dealing with a major incident, who would be the first to be criticised and suffer possible litigation if a passenger were injured during an incident?

Surely the delays suffered on 8 December were a small price to pay for the safety of the passengers and crew involved.

Capt S J Green

Independent Pilots Association

Haywards Heath, UK



Sir-The Fokker 50 incident, was the second one to occur within the space of a month at Heathrow, wereby one of the main runways was blocked for many hours. The previous incident involved a Boeing 747, which, because of an engine fire, had to have its take-off aborted.

Similar valid questions, as asked by N Malle, were also raised at the last Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee meeting. No satisfactory answers were given by the airport authorities. Notwithstanding the above, we wonder if the general public is aware of the safety implications in the crowded skies over southern England when Heathrow loses 50% of its runway capacity - ie, mix-mode operations, diversions, delays, stacking and disruption/frustration to air travellers, and so on.

With the ever increasing air movements at the three London airports, surely urgent consideration should be given on resurrecting plans for the construction of a four-runway Thames-estuary sited airport? If not for environmental grounds, then on safety grounds alone.

K J Abnett

General Secretary

The Federation of Heathrow Anti-Noise Groups

East Molesey, Surrey, UK

Source: Flight International