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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » November 25, 2011
Politics & Society
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Lucky Landing
November 25, 2011   
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A LOT Polish Airlines passenger plane made a dramatic emergency landing on its belly at Warsaw airport Nov. 1 after its landing gear failed to open, but none of the 220 passengers or 11 crew aboard were injured. The pilot of the Boeing 767, 53-year-old captain Tadeusz Wrona, was quickly hailed a national hero.

The crew had detected a central hydraulic system failure soon after takeoff from Newark airport, which serves the New York area, and continued the flight in line with procedures for such cases. Over Warsaw, it turned out that the aircraft was unable to lower its landing gear, because not only the hydraulic system but also the backup electric system had failed. The crew tried to release the undercarriage by taking the plane down sharply and triggering artificial turbulence, but this was unsuccessful. The only option left was to land on the plane’s belly.

The aircraft circled over Warsaw for almost an hour to dump fuel. At the time of landing, it had only 3 tons of fuel in its tanks. The runway was sprayed with a flame-retardant foam.

Experts and pilots say the landing by Capt. Wrona was perfect. He managed to keep the plane in the center of the runway and touched down so smoothly that some passengers were convinced that the landing gear had actually been lowered at the last moment. After the Boeing skidded to a halt, fire crews rushed to hose it with foam. For a few seconds sparks were visible under the right engine, caused by friction between the aircraft belly and the ground.

Less than 10 seconds after touchdown, evacuation slides were released and passengers immediately disembarked, emptying the plane in about a minute. The flight crew said later the evacuation was smooth because the passengers had been informed about emergency landing procedures and had kept calm. Twenty-six firefighting units took part in the emergency landing operation, backed by at least 10 waiting ambulances.

Two F-16 military jets had accompanied the Boeing 767 over Warsaw. Their task was to inspect the plane and tell its crew about the state of the undercarriage, as it is impossible to make such inspections from the cockpit.

A preliminary investigation revealed that the hydraulic system on the plane failed due to a damaged fluid-transmission pipe. A special commission is examining how the leak occurred. The commission’s report should be ready by the end of the year, according to LOT officials.
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