A Cathay Pacific flight, CX216, which departed from the UK’s Manchester Airport (MAN) to Hong Kong (HKG), was forced to turn back to Manchester after a landing gear failure on August 23. The flight operated by Airbus A350-1000 registered B-LXN made an emergency landing at MAN after the landing gear failed to retract after takeoff. Despite the gear retraction issue, the aircraft made a safe landing without causing any harm or injury to passengers and crew onboard.
Landing gear malfunction
Cathay Pacific’s flight Airbus A350 CX216 bound for Hong Kong departed Manchester Airport at 12:34 pm local time and was due to arrive at its scheduled destination at 07:25 am the next morning, but the aircraft experienced a landing gear malfunction soon after takeoff. The landing gear of the wide-body passenger jet failed to retract during the cruising flight and was forced to return to the origin airport for an emergency landing.
As the pilots reported a technical fault with the gear following takeoff, the aircraft circled over the Irish Sea to dump the fuel before returning to Manchester Airport. After flying above the Irish Sea, the aircraft touched down back at the departure airport two hours later. The A330-1000 jet landed uneventfully and safely on runway 23L at 14:23 local time and was taxied off the runway back to the terminal on its own. Upon the emergency landing of the CX216 flight, five fire crews met the plane as this is a standard procedure or a precautionary measure for such type of landing.
Cathay Pacific’s statement
The flag carrier of Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, confirmed the abnormal landing gear issue in CX216 and described the incident as a precautionary procedural flight return. The spokesperson for the airline assured that all passengers and crew were safe as the flight landed uneventfully and safely at Manchester without any complications. According to the airline, the involved wide-body aircraft is undergoing necessary maintenance by the engineers. The carrier will update the flight arrangements for the affected passengers.
Landing gear retracting and fuel dumping
In aircraft technology, the landing gear is an essential component used for takeoff, landing, taxiing, etc., whose primary function is to endure the landing force and prevent the aircraft fuselage from hitting the ground. As the aircraft takes off and leaves the runway, the landing gear retracts, i.e., stows inside the structure to reduce the drag, thereby increasing cruise speed and glide distance. Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A350-1000 experienced a problem raising the landing gear into a compartment in the fuselage, which disrupted the flight aerodynamics. Since it was not safe to fly with landing gear down for over a 12-hour flight, the plane returned to MAN yesterday.
Fuel dumping is an intentional jettison of fuel from an aircraft in a certain emergency situation to reduce the aircraft’s weight before hitting the ground. If the aircraft has to return to the airport shortly after takeoff, it will contain more fuel than was intended for landing. If the airliner performs landing at more than its maximum allowable weight, it can cause structural damage, particularly to the landing gear and airframe structure.
The CX216 flight circled Lancashire in North England and flew over the Irish Sea to dump the fuel so as to avoid causing damage to the aircraft during a hard landing. The flight duration for the Manchester-Hong Kong route is around 12 hours which means the aircraft must contain enough fuel to make it to Hong Kong. As the flight had to return shortly to the origin airport due to a landing gear problem, it had to burn the fuel to minimize the aircraft’s weight and avoid the possibility of structural damage.
Cathay Pacific took the delivery of B-LXN registered Airbus A350-1000 on June 25, 2021. The long-range passenger aircraft forms an important part of the carrier’s long-haul operations and serves the destinations like Osaka, Vancouver, London Heathrow, etc. Available in 3 cabin classes, it accommodates a total of 334 passengers, including 256 in the economy, 32 in the premium economy, and 46 in business class. At present, Cathay Pacific has a total of 15 Airbus A350-1000s in its fleet to serve as workhorses for long-range networks.
About Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific is the flagship airline of Hong Kong, founded on September 24, 1946. Headquartered at Hong Kong International Airport, the carrier has an industry-leading network of 89 destinations and a fleet size of 172 aircraft and is the fifth largest airline in the world in terms of sales.