Event Details

Title:Runway excursion on landing, Boeing 747-236B, G-BDXP, Heathrow
Micro summary:This Boeing 747-236B left the runway on landing.
Event Time:2000-12-12 at 1938 UTC
File Name:2000-12-12-UK.pdf
Publishing Agency:Aircraft Accident Investigation Board (AAIB)
Publishing Country:United Kingdom
Report number:EW/C2000/12/05
Site of event:London Heathrow
Departure:General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Destination:London Heathrow Airport, London, England
Airplane Type(s):Boeing 747-236B
Flight Phase:Landing
Operator(s):British Airways
Type of flight:Revenue
Serious Injuries:0
Other Injuries:0
Executive Summary:The flight departed from Boston USA and was inbound to London Heathrow Airport (LHR). The 1800 hrs Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) for LHR, obtained en-route by the crew, indicated that surface winds could increase to a value in excess of the aircraft crosswind limitation at the expected time of arrival. The crew reviewed the available alternates and decided that London Stansted Airport would be the most suitable in the event of LHR being unavailable.

At 1917 hrs the aircraft was required to hold in the London area awaiting an approach. The crew asked London Area and Terminal Control Centre (LATCC) whether Runway 23 would be available in view of the wind conditions. They were advised that it was but would entail a 20 minute delay for the flight. In light of this information, together with the fact that the surface wind remained within limits for Runway 27R and that an ILS approach would be preferred the commander elected to continue for an approach for Runway 27R, the landing runway scheduled for use until 2359 hrs.

The First Officer (FO) flew the approach with the autopilot engaged. At about 1,000 feet agl the Flight Engineer (FE) advised the others of the Inertial Navigation System (INS) derived wind; 206/45kt with a drift of 16.1. ATC advised another aircraft ahead on the approach that severe turbulence could be expected around the area of the hangars on short final. A question was raised amongst the incident crew as to why the airport was using this runway in these conditions as from their own previous experience Runway 27L would be preferable. At 700 feet agl with visual contact established the commander took control, in accordance with company standard operating procedures, and then disengaged the autopilot. Flap 25 with a VREF speed of 135 kt was used for landing. The FE read out a drift angle of 12 at touchdown. The touchdown was made at 150 kt on a heading 8o left of the runway QDM of 273M, smoothly and close to the centreline. Autospeedbrake deployed normally. After touchdown the aircraft initially tracked towards the left of the runway despite the commander's attempts to maintain the centreline by the use of full right rudder. The left wing of the aircraft lifted to give a right roll attitude of 4 and then returned to level. The FO delayed the selection of reverse thrust until he was confident that the aircraft was under control. The aircraft tracked back towards the runway centreline and thrust reversers were then deployed at a speed of 110 kt. The centreline was regained and the aircraft began to track slightly to the right. An input of 70% left rudder was used for a short time to counter this and the aircraft swung rapidly to the left. Reverse thrust was cancelled and the commander attempted to use the steering tiller to regain control but felt the nosewheel scrubbing across the runway surface. The left wing briefly lifted again. Full right rudder was reapplied but the aircraft continued tracking to the left and came off the paved area into a grass triangle between two taxiways.

The aircraft came to rest on the grass and the flight crew assessed the possible damage. The commander consulted with the attending Heathrow Fire Service and decided that it was not necessary to carry out a passenger evacuation of the aircraft and completed a normal shutdown. The emergency services confirmed that there was no apparent damage to the aircraft. There was some delay before steps could be attached and passengers disembarked because of the difficult ground and wind conditions.



On the available evidence, it would appear that whilst carrying out a landing on the margins of permitted cross wind limits, and after the crew had contained successfully an initial veer to the left on touchdown and were in the process of correcting an apparent subsequent swing to the right, the aircraft was caught by a sudden gust which effectively reinforced the corrective rudder pedal being applied at that time, resulting in a violent over-swing to the left. Despite reversal of the rudder pedal, ultimately to 100%, the yaw rate to the left could not be contained, directional control was lost, and the aircraft departed the paved surface.


In this incident despite turbulent conditions, a safe touchdown was made. The crosswind component of the reported wind remained within the aircraft limits endorsed by the manufacturer and used by the operator. However, there may be a significant difference between a reported wind and an actual wind as a result of short-duration gusts and local effects.

The loss of control occurred after touchdown. It seems likely that a critical wind change occurred just as the aircraft was transitioning from the speed at which full rudder would be effective to that at which some input from the tiller or possibly differential braking would be required. As the aircraft swung to the left, the nosewheel was at its limit of adhesion and the only further corrective input available would have been differential braking. The crew had not practised this technique and as the swing to the left was very rapid, it may not have been effective in any case. After the incident, the operator revised the crosswind limits to 25 kt on a wet runway and reviewed the training of crosswind landing technique on the type specifically to raise awareness of the use of differential braking. Moreover, since September 2001, the operator has withdrawn its Boeing 747 'Classic' variants from service and all its remaining Boeing 747 aircraft have rudder fine steering enabled.

Although Runway 23 was available for the aircraft, albeit with a 20 minute delay, there was no precision approach aid available on Runway 23 and weather conditions were such that the commander considered it desirable to use a precision approach aid. That entailed the use of either Runway 27L or 27R. The crew would have preferred to use Runway 27L because they knew the approach path to Runway 27R would be especially turbulent but they were under the impression that it was not available because of the strictures of the runway alternation scheme.
Learning Keywords:Operations - Evacuation
Operations - Runway Excursion
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