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JetBlue Airways Flight 292

As the front wheels touched the runway, sparks shot along the runway and the tires tore off, leaving the metal gear scraping the runway for the final few yards.
Incident summary
Date September 21, 2005 (2005-09-21)
Type Nonfatal undercarriage malfunction
Site Los Angeles, California
Passengers 140
Crew 6
Injuries 0
Fatalities 0
Survivors 146 (all)
Aircraft type Airbus A320-232
Operator JetBlue Airways
Tail number N536JB
Flight origin Bob Hope Airport
Destination John F. Kennedy International Airport

JetBlue Airways Flight 292 was a scheduled flight from Bob Hope Airport (BUR) in Burbank, California to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York City. On September 21, 2005, flight 292 executed an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) after the nose wheels jammed in an abnormal position. No one was injured.


September 21, 2005 flight

Carrying 140 passengers and six crew, the Airbus A320-232 aircraft departed from Burbank at 3:17 pm PDT (UTC-7). The aircraft, which was built in 2002,[1] bore the tail number N536JB and the name "Canyon Blue". It was scheduled to fly 2,465 miles (3,967 km) to JFK airport.

After takeoff from Burbank, the pilots realized that they could not retract the landing gear. They then flew low over Long Beach Municipal Airport (LGB) in Long Beach (the location of a JetBlue hub) to allow officials in the airport's control tower to take stock of the damage to its landing gear before attempting a landing, and it was found that the nosewheel was rotated ninety degrees to the left, perpendicular to the direction of the fuselage.

Rather than land at Long Beach Airport, the pilot-in-command took 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 pilots flew the aircraft, which can carry up to 46,860 pounds (21,255 kg) of aviation fuel, in a figure eight pattern between Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and LAX for more than two hours in order to burn fuel and lower the risk of fire upon landing. This also served to lighten the plane, reducing potential stress on the landing gear and dramatically lowering landing speed as well [2][3]. The Airbus A320 does not have the mechanical facility to dump fuel,[4] despite various news agencies reporting that the aircraft was doing so over the ocean.

Since JetBlue planes are equipped with DirecTV satellite television, passengers on Flight 292 were able to watch live news coverage of their flight while the plane circled over the Pacific for hours. The in-flight video system was turned off "well before landing".[5]

Emergency services and fire engines were standing by on the LAX tarmac ahead of the landing. Although foam trucks were available, they were not used. The U.S. FAA no longer recommends pre-foaming runways, chiefly due to concerns that it would deplete firefighting foam supplies which might later be needed to respond to a fire; it is also difficult to determine exactly where a runway should be foamed, and pre-foaming might also reduce the effectiveness of the aircraft's brakes, potentially causing it to slide off the runway.[6]

Los Angeles Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Lou Roupoli said, "The pilot did an outstanding job. He kept the plane on its rear tires as long as he could before he brought [the nose gear down]."[7] When the nose gear did touch down, there were sparks and flames from it, but no apparent damage to the rest of the plane. At 6:20pm PDT (UTC-7), the aircraft came to a stop very close to the end of the 11,096-foot (3382-meter) runway 25L. In an attempt to keep the nose gear off the ground as long as possible, reverse thrust was not used to slow the aircraft. The pilots therefore used a much larger portion of the available runway than in a typical landing, stopping 1,000 feet / 305 m before the end of the runway, validating the decision to divert from Long Beach, where the longest runway is 10,000 feet (3048 m).[8]

Aftermath and evaluation

Aerial view of Los Angeles International Airport. The Airbus A320 landed on the southernmost runway, 25L. In runway naming, 25L means the runway points to compass heading 250, and is the leftmost runway. All runways at LAX are actually at a heading of 249.1. In aviation, runway numbers are rounded to the nearest ten degrees.

Passengers began to disembark fewer than seven minutes later. The landing was smooth and no physical injuries were reported. The aircraft was vacated via airstairs, as opposed to Evacuation Slides typically used in an emergency situation.

JetBlue did not operate from LAX at the time, so they had no company officials or maintenance personnel based at that airport. Therefore, the aircraft was towed to a Continental Airlines hangar at LAX for evaluation.[9]

Current and former airline pilots and other experts stated that, despite the drama and live worldwide coverage, there was little real danger to the passengers or crew of Flight 292.[10] The A320, like all modern airliners, is engineered to tolerate certain failures, and if necessary can be landed without the nose gear at all.[10]

MSNBC reported that "The National Transportation Safety Board Web site reported that a similar incident with an A320 occurred on an America West Airlines flight in February 1999 in Columbus, Ohio (Flight 2811).[11] The agency found the cause was a failure of the external o-rings in the nose landing gear steering module."[3] That plane also landed safely.

Further media reports state that this is at least the seventh occurrence of an Airbus A320 series aircraft touching down with the landing gear locked ninety degrees out of position, and one of at least sixty-seven "nose wheel failures" on A319, A320 and A321 aircraft worldwide since 1989. Earlier incidents included another JetBlue flight bound for New York City, a United Airlines flight into Chicago, and an America West flight into Columbus, Ohio. While some incidents were traced to faulty maintenance and denied as a design flaw by Airbus Industries, the manufacturer had issued maintenance advisories to A320 owners which were later mandated as Airworthiness Directives by American and French aviation authorities.[12] Further, Messier-Dowty, a Paris-based firm which manufactures nose gear assemblies for the A320, stated in a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report in 2004 that part of the gear had been redesigned to prevent future problems, but at the time the redesign was awaiting approval.[13] Mechanics familiar with this common fault usually replace or re-program the Brake Steering Control Unit (BSCU) computer.

The NTSB report says that worn-out seals were to blame for the malfunction. Also the brake steering control unit system contributed to the problem. Airbus claims to have fixed the problem in an upgrade. [14]

Following the incident, the aircraft was repaired and returned to service still bearing the name "Canyon Blue."


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