On September 21, 2005, a JetBlue flight between Burbank (BUR) and New York (JFK) had to perform an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The incident was due to a malfunction of the nose gear. But, what happened on that day? Let’s investigate.
JetBlue Flight 292
Flight 292 was JetBlue’s regularly scheduled service between Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport (BUR) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). On the day of the incident, the airline used an Airbus A320-232, registration N536JB (and called Canyon Blue).
Onboard the flight were 140 passengers and six crew members. The aircraft departed Burbank at 15:17 and was scheduled to fly nearly 2,500 miles to New York City.
The first officer was the pilot in charge that day. During the initial departure, he didn’t notice any problem and even had a positive rate of climb, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Nevertheless, a few minutes after, the flight crew noted an error message displayed on the Electric Centralized Aircraft Monitoring system. The crew could not retract the nose landing gear. While the captain consulted the flight crew operating manual, the first officer flew over Palmdale, California. But, after a while, it became obvious that the flight couldn’t go all the way to New York.
Photo: Denver International Airport
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What happened next?
The crew diverted the flight to Long Beach, California. According to the NTSB, the captain decided to perform a flyby of the tower for verification of the gear status. The tower, JetBlue ground personnel, and a local news helicopter advised him that the nose landing gear was canted 90 degrees to the left.
Instead of turning back to Burbank, the captain decided to land in Los Angeles International (LAX). The NTSB cites the captain’s choice as, “because it had optimum field conditions, runway length, and better emergency support services.” Because the A320 family of aircraft are not equipped to dump fuel, the pilots flew in a figure-eight pattern between BUR and LAX to burn off fuel before attempting to land. By doing this, they lessened the load on the landing gear, reduced the risk of the aircraft catching on fire, and prevented a hard landing.
Prior to landing, the captain advised its crew and passengers to brace for impact. He touched down at 120 knots, and did not use ground spoilers, reverse thrust, or auto-braking to help prevent the nose gear from collapsing. The affected wheel did generate sparks and flames, but once the aircraft completely stopped, the air traffic control tower confirmed that there was no fire, and the passengers deplaned normally, using an airstair.
Both of the nose landing gear tires deflated and tore apart. Despite the abnormal nose landing gear configuration, the airplane stayed on the runway centerline, and its trajectory was unaffected.
What caused the incident?
Following the hard landing at Los Angeles, the NTSB launched an investigation into the incident. The Board determined,
“Examination of the nose wheel assembly with a borescope revealed fractured and separated anti-rotation lugs.”
It also added,
“The examination of the nose landing gear assembly revealed that two of the four anti-rotation lugs on the upper support assembly have fractured and separated from the upper support assembly. The other two lugs contained cracks.”
Following the incident, Airbus issued an Operations Engineering Bulletin. This technical information provided a procedure for the flight crew to reset in flight the Brake Steering Control Unit, which controls the nose landing gear.
Photo: Lukas Souza | Simple Flying
Passengers watched their landing on live TV
Being part of an emergency landing due to a technical fault is scary enough, but what made this flight slightly different was that the passengers could watch their nail-biting landing on live TV.
The aircraft in question was equipped with satellite television, and the nature of the incident meant that news channels had enough time to film the incident. This meant that the passengers inside the airplane watched almost the entire event unfold on a screen in front of them.
Naturally, many felt the whole thing as being surreal as they listened to reporters discuss the whole event live, as they waited for the pilot to perform the tricky landing. The aircraft (N536JB) eventually returned to service and, according to FlightRadar24.com, was performing a flight between New York (LGA) and West Palm Beach (PBI) at the time of writing on October 28, 2022.
Have you heard of JetBlue’s nose gear incident before? What else do you know? Let us know in the comments below.