Pilot of US-Bangla Airlines averts major accident, saves 171 lives
- A Monitor Report
01 Oct, 2018
Dhaka : The pilot of US-Bangla Airlines Boeing 737 with 171 passengers and crew on board, landed the aircraft_ disabled with failed nose landing gear_ safely in Chittogram, on September 26. No one was hurt seriously.
The Flight BS-141 took off from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport for Cox's Bazar, with 164 passengers and seven crew members, on board at 11:30am.
While preparing to land at Cox's Bazar, Captain Mohammad Zakaria and First Officer Abdur Rouf, found that the nose landing gear is locked and did not extend.
The Captain made several attempts to fix the glitch and followed the emergency manual binder, while his Co-Pilot made at least five to six circles in the sky of Cox's Bazar, according to flight tracker AirNav-RadarBox. Futile attempts to fix the wheel went in vain, the Captain alerted Cox's Bazar Airport control tower.
Both the Dhaka and Cox's Bazar towers advised the beleaguered aircraft to either return to Dhaka or ask authorisation for emergency landing at Chattogram airport. Captain Zakaria contacted the Shah Amanat Interna-tional Airport, Chattogram for emergency landing. Imme-diately Chattogram Airport cleared the runway and cancelled all out-bound and inbound flights and asked other flight to divert.
Prior to landing
Meanwhile the airport officials prepared the runway for emergency landing US-Bangla plane. All vehicles of the airport fire department were deployed. The emergency crew and ambulances were on standby.
While hovering over Chatto-gram airport, the Captain followed strict emergency guidelines and dumped all aviation fuel in the air to significantly reduce fire hazard on impact.
Earlier Captain Zakaria informed the passengers on the intercom of a technical glitch and had to divert the flight to Chattogram.
After 15 minutes he again informed the passengers that they have been cleared to land at Shah Amanat International Airport. Speaking confidently to the passengers that everything will be okay "Insha Allah"! The passengers had no clue what was happening, only when the plane landed at the airport and asked to jump on the evacuation sliding raft.
The cabin crew were properly briefed to ensure that all passenger brace for landing and open shoes or sandals. The flight attendants had strictly followed the instructions.
The pilot made few more attempts to release the landing gear, but failed again, according to flight trackers’ websites. Finally Captain Zakaria decided to land without the nose wheel.
The aircraft approached the Chattogram runway at 1pm and landed perfectly on rear two wheels. Controlling the air brakes to abruptly slow the speed of the aircraft, he carefully lowered the nose with a jolt, where the fire trucks had sprayed foams to ensure that the aircraft do not catch fire from friction with the ground.
After the aircraft came to a halt, the well-trained cabin crew swiftly opened the emergency doors. The cabin crew without any delay quickly guided the panicked passengers to slide down the evacuation rafts.
The problem relating to locked nose landing gear is not very uncommon.
The cockpit crew of a US-Bangla domestic flight to Cox's Bazar kept their cool and landed their Boeing 737 with 171 lives on board in Chattogram.
Nobody was hurt during the emergency landing but some passengers received minor injuries as they tried to come out from the craft hurriedly
Hasan Jahir, station Air Traffic officer of Shah Amanat International Airport, told a local daily, "The pilot had a 30-minute conversation over the radio with the control tower.
"He told us that the nose gear of the aircraft was not extending and wanted us to prepare for an emergency landing.
"The pilot, Captain Mohammad Zakaria, was calm and focused when he was talking to the control tower. He was describing the problem very patiently. He seemed confident and not frightened or panicked even for a moment," Jahir said.
The video clips of the landing, taken by people on the ground and posted them on social media, show that after the plane's main landing gears touched down, the pilot held the nose of the plane up for a long time.
He eventually had to gently put down the nose, with no landing gear, a few hundred metres before the aircraft stopped.
Emergency vehicles that had been following the plane since touch down reached the spot in moments.
Pilot Captain Mohammad Zakaria told a news website that like any other pilot, he received training on managing emergency situations.
"Apart from training, a pilot has his own technique to apply in an emergency situation and I tried my best to be as safe as possible and I landed the aircraft thinking about the safety of all passengers and crew," the news portal quoted him as saying.
According to report in the daily "all the passengers that the correspondent of the daily spoke to praised the pilot".
Passenger Pulak, who was in a wheelchair, said "Being panicked, I tried to get out hurriedly through the emergency door on the wing and I hurt my leg," he said.
"For the pilot, we, the 164 passengers, have gotten out safely from the aircraft," said Qaiyum, adding, "He did not make us realise the actual danger even minutes before the emergency landing."
Passenger Mamtaj said, "I want to express my heartiest gratitude to the pilot as he efficiently managed the situation."
"I cannot even imagine what would have happened if there was a minor fault in decision-making in that situation," she said.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh has formed a four-member committee to investigate the incident.
Not so uncommon
It may be noted that when an aircraft is unable to touch down with its landing gear fully extended it must perform a gear-up or "belly" landing. Such a landing does carry a small risk - there is likely to be damage to the aircraft; it could conceivably catch fire or flip over if it lands too hard. Bad weather or high winds can increase the danger.
However, such landings are normally safe if performed correctly, as numerous case studies show.
Gear-up landings are surprisingly common, and are not always made due to mechanical error. Occasionally a pilot will simply forget to lower it.
A cursory glance at Boeing's record of 2016 aviation accidents for commercial aircraft shows there were 12 incidents involving collapsed or failed landing gears in 2015.