A jumbo jet was "fortunate" to land at Heathrow airport after being forced to glide over some of the most congested parts of London following engine problems, an air accident report said today.
There was no guidance available within the operations manual as to how the American-owned Boeing 747 cargo plane would perform in glide mode, said the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report.
"The commander (captain) was fortunate to have an obscured view of the (Heathrow) airport," the report added.
The AAIB also said the captain had to resort to a series of sharp turns before landing and that this would not have been possible in cloudy or poor-visibility weather.
The Evergreen International Airlines aircraft, with just four crew on board, was flying from Ramstein in Germany to Wright Field in New York state on the morning of April 24, 2004.
One engine failed and the crew determined the other three engines were not producing enough thrust. They declared an emergency and requested a diversion to Heathrow.
The report said: "The aircraft diverted to the only airport that the flight crew considered suitable and in the process flew over some of the most congested parts of London in a gliding configuration from which a safe landing was not reasonably assured."
The AAIB added: "Although this incident was safely resolved, it raises again the need to review under what circumstances an aircraft in difficulty should be permitted to fly over congested urban areas.
"They (the crew) were not familiar with the range of airport options available to them, nor was it obvious to them that their desired destination involved overflying metropolitan London in a configuration that did not assure a safe landing."
The AAIB recommended the Civil Aviation Authority review guidance about plane diversions over built-up areas, while also recommending Evergreen to review procedures.Reuse content