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Topic: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: UA191
Posted 2013-04-07 15:28:23 and read 17863 times.

Hi Everyone,

Last night, I was on VX 370 from LAX to BOS. Just about 20 minutes after we took off, the pilot came on and announced that we'd be returning to LAX for an emergency landing because of "weird vibrations." They didn't drop/burn any fuel (which surprised me for a cross-country flight that was nearly overweight as it is - ex. JetBlue A320 w/ gear problems flew around for hours to burn fuel before landing). We landed in LAX with emergency ground crew on standby and boarded another aircraft to BOS minutes later.

My question is: What could have happened? Would they really have landed that abruptly for just a few 'vibrations'?

Thanks in advance!

[Edited 2013-04-07 15:51:48]

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: N766UA
Posted 2013-04-07 15:30:11 and read 17848 times.

Quoting UA191 (Thread starter):
They didn't drop any fuel

A320's don't have the capability to dump fuel.

Quoting UA191 (Thread starter):
ex. JetBlue A320 w/ gear problems flew around for hours to dump fuel before landing)

They flew around to burn fuel, not to dump it.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: solarflyer22
Posted 2013-04-07 15:37:40 and read 17790 times.

That's really bizarre. Are you sure they were giving the correct reason for the turnaround? Sometimes they are not very specific when speaking to the passengers. Strange vibrations would be hard to notice from the cockpit unless it was impacting the planes ability to stay level and on heading. If it were doing that, its very serious indeed. I've seen engine cowlings fly off the engine, rudder issues etc. so it can be potentially serious. If the main wings were vibrating it could indicate a POGO effect. Their flight is new and small so it seems really weird. I wonder if the flight attendants saw something they weren't familiar with.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: futureualpilot
Posted 2013-04-07 15:42:50 and read 17729 times.

Quoting UA191 (Thread starter):
What could have happened? Would they really have landed that abruptly for just a few 'vibrations'?

Could have been anything from an odd sound or feeling heard or felt by the crew to an indication of engine vibration that was out of whatever the acceptable tolerances might be. I'm not familiar with the Airbus or Virgin America's procedures but it isn't unheard of to land for abnormal indications. Better safe than sorry.

We (crew) don't get anything out of lying to you (our customers) but we also won't give you every nitty gritty detail when something happens, both because of time constraints and to try and avoid a nervous or unfamiliar traveler making a bigger issue out of something than it might be.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: UA191
Posted 2013-04-07 15:50:42 and read 17658 times.

Quoting N766UA (Reply 1):
They flew around to burn fuel, not to dump it.

Thanks for the clarification. I changed the post. But is it unsafe then to land with a plane full of fuel going 3000 miles away? We took up the entire runway at LAX.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: UA191
Posted 2013-04-07 15:54:45 and read 17613 times.

Quoting solarflyer22 (Reply 2):
Are you sure they were giving the correct reason for the turnaround?

FAs said they felt some light vibrations in the aft galley, but I didn't feel anything from my seat over the wing. It's obviously got to be very serious for them to spend all of that extra time & money to return the flight. It also seems risky with all of the fuel.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: Jpax
Posted 2013-04-07 16:20:35 and read 17452 times.

Quoting UA191 (Reply 4):

An overweight landing is not unsafe. It has risks to it, but they often outweigh the option of staying in the air depending on the situation. Additionally, as for it being "very serious," it doesn't have to be. A precautionary landing is just taking the conservative route. Time and money come after safety, a recurring theme that people on this message board just fail to grasp.

[Edited 2013-04-07 16:24:17]

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: UA191
Posted 2013-04-07 16:23:29 and read 17435 times.

Quoting Jpax (Reply 6):
An overweight landing is not unsafe. Additionally, as for it being "very serious," it doesn't have to be. A precautionary landing is just taking the conservative route. Time and money come after safety, a recurring theme that people on this message board just fail to grasp.

I can grasp that completely and agree with it! How is an overweight landing not unsafe, though?

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: B6JFKH81
Posted 2013-04-07 16:26:51 and read 17397 times.

Quoting UA191 (Reply 5):
It also seems risky with all of the fuel.

Why? The A320 is designed to land with nearly the full fuel load. The reason the B6 flight flew around for HOURS to burn off fuel is their gear was stuck in a weird position. You need to have a nice light landing to help lessen the stress on the gear. That, and should there be a really bad issue during that landing, there is less fuel on board to ignite. In your case, there is NO REASON to fly around for multiple hours to burn off fuel (as you can't dump it). When things vibrate, you just want to get on the ground before the vibration leads to things becoming loose and compromising the integrity of the structure. A320-sized planes take off every day and return to the departure field due to issues with full loads of fuel onboard because that's what they are designed to to.

In my humble opinion, as someone in the technical side of the industry, there is nothing "risky" about what your flight crew did....

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: Jpax
Posted 2013-04-07 16:26:58 and read 17395 times.

Quoting UA191 (Reply 7):

It varies from aircraft to aircraft. On the planes I have flown, an overweight landing requires a maintenance inspection, with varying degrees based upon how smooth the landing was. I'm not sure how the landing smoothness is judged. You may blow some tires and warm up the brakes, but the chance of any structural damage is very low.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: mcdu
Posted 2013-04-07 16:41:36 and read 17252 times.

The B6 landing was a known gear issue. Easy decision, stay in the air, get the plane as light as possible and then land. Your flight had a potential controllability issue with unknown cause of vibration. You do not stay in the air longer than needed with controllability issues especially one with unknown origin. The pilots don't know how the vibration might change with, weight and speed. It is best to put the airplane on the ground utilizing the overweight landing checklist and let the techs fix the plane in this instance.

[Edited 2013-04-07 16:44:19]

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: copter808
Posted 2013-04-07 16:58:09 and read 17129 times.

Quoting mcdu (Reply 10):
You do not stay in the air longer than needed with controllability issues especially one with unknown origin.

Quite correct!!

Different aircraft, but recently a helicopter crew felt an unusual vibration and didn't land immediately. THEY ARE NOW VERY DEAD!!!

My policy would be to get it on the ground as fast as practicable--and a lot faster if I knew it was a serious problem!

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: solarflyer22
Posted 2013-04-07 18:19:06 and read 16536 times.

Very good points on overweight landing. On a A320 it probably has the same gear as a A321 which is larger and heavier anyway. It really just depends on the aircraft and the circumstances but I doubt they came in drastically or dangerously overweight. It may have been a light load on the plane anyway. If its not fully booked or doesn't have much cargo or luggage in its hold it might not have been that heavy to begin with.

You really don't know as passenger so just relax and know that they have very accurate numbers in the cockpit and are more likely than not to make the best decision. And if they don't, the planes themselves are still pretty tough.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: UA191
Posted 2013-04-07 18:52:53 and read 16057 times.

Quoting solarflyer22 (Reply 12):
Very good points on overweight landing. On a A320 it probably has the same gear as a A321 which is larger and heavier anyway. It really just depends on the aircraft and the circumstances but I doubt they came in drastically or dangerously overweight. It may have been a light load on the plane anyway. If its not fully booked or doesn't have much cargo or luggage in its hold it might not have been that heavy to begin with.

The flight was overbooked and 30 bags had to be gate-checked.

I trust the pilots 100%, but I just wanted to know other opinions  

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: 3rdGen
Posted 2013-04-07 19:34:38 and read 15503 times.

Quoting B6JFKH81 (Reply 8):
Why? The A320 is designed to land with nearly the full fuel load.

It is designed to land with the full fuel load. If I'm not mistaken all aircraft have to be able to land at their Max T/O weight in order to receive certification, albeit with certain overweight procedure which need to be followed.

Quoting solarflyer22 (Reply 12):
On a A320 it probably has the same gear as a A321 which is larger and heavier anyway.

321 tires are slightly larger.

Quoting solarflyer22 (Reply 12):
It really just depends on the aircraft and the circumstances but I doubt they came in drastically or dangerously overweight

There's no such thing as being dangerously overweight, vs. not dangerously overweight. I suppose being heavier is slightly more risky but the procedure is the same, have to land within certain limits and follow out a few procedures to ensure that go-around performance is not compromised.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: lightsaber
Posted 2013-04-07 20:19:21 and read 14949 times.

Quoting B6JFKH81 (Reply 8):
In my humble opinion, as someone in the technical side of the industry, there is nothing "risky" about what your flight crew did....

I'm trying to figure out the controversy. There were unusual vibrations and the pilot made the call to land again. Considering the issues that I've seen with Flutter, that is a time the pilot earned his pay. Everything I read was by procedure.

LIghtsaber

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: nitepilot79
Posted 2013-04-07 20:45:01 and read 14674 times.

February, 14 2006, I was on a Delta Connection flight from ATL-AVL. Must have been the last DL Connection flight of the night to AVL because it was late (at least 10PM), and Asheville Regional is a tiny airport (quite nice, actually). Anyway, the ATR-72 was in the air less the 5 minutes, when it started making like we going to have some bonus time at The Hartsfield. Sure enough, one of the pilots came on and said we were going back to the airport. He cited "a problem with the airframe" as being the reason for our return. The were Emergency vehicles standing by while we landed. Mostly precautionary, I would guess. We got back to the gate fine.We deplaned. We sat for a couple hours, then left for AVL. Made it to AVL just fine. I don't know what ever happened, probably never will. It would be interesting to find out....

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: SAAFNAV
Posted 2013-04-07 21:35:57 and read 14199 times.

Quoting UA191 (Reply 7):

I can grasp that completely and agree with it! How is an overweight landing not unsafe, though?
Quoting UA191 (Reply 7):

Most planes have a 'normal' maximum landing weight, which, when you have luxury of time etc, aim for to land with.
But, when you have to land in the 'overweight' regime, there are some other limitations that comes into play.

Your maximum rate of descend will be lower than normal, and since you are so heavy, your touchdown speed could be higher than the nosewheel's maximum speed. This means you have to hold the nose in the air (aerodynamic braking) until the speed is below the maximum tire speed.

Depending on aircraft and severity of overweight landing, it has to be snagged to inspect the landing gear, or the aircraft has to be measured for deformation. (Although I doubt an A321 needs this, since it doesn't have fuel dumping). In much larger aircraft, the Delta between weights with fuel dump etc is massive.

Regards,

Erich

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: MSJYOP28Apilot
Posted 2013-04-07 22:11:07 and read 13874 times.

Rarely do aircraft even on a long segment like LAX-BOS takeoff with the tanks completely full. Eastbound with tailwinds would make the enroute burn lighter. Not sure how long LAX-BOS is time wise but if under 6 hours flight time and the weather in BOS was above 1-2-3 mins, they may not have been carrying all that much extra gas and not likely completely full tanks. Even with an alternate, unless it was an extremely distant one, completely full on fuel is unlikely.

Regardless, it still would have been an overweight landing. Airlines have QRH/AOM procedures for overweight landings. The maximum structural landing weight is basically the max landing weight in normal operations for the aircraft to land at. Anything above that weight and the manufacturer cannot gurantee that the aircraft will maintain its structural integrity. In a sense, it is the maufacturer stating that if you regularly operate above this weight you are on your own. Most aircraft weights are built in with a large safety margin. Even on max ramp weight, it normally requires going over max ramp weight by a significant amount before an inspection is required. On regional jets especially the CRJ200, it is not uncommon for it to land slightly above the max 47,000 lbs in normal operations. Of course, it isnt planned for that but you would be surprised how often it happens. ATC is known to complain about the RJs at hub airports because it causes flow issues each time a RJ goes missed approach or needs to hold to burn off excess fuel for landing weight. Ive even seen an A320 on a short segment do holding for max landing weight due to high ZFW and fuel being tankered for cost savings.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: airportugal310
Posted 2013-04-07 22:28:51 and read 13728 times.

Quoting UA191 (Reply 13):

Flight oversold? Hardly. I was going to be flying standby on this flight last night and it was hardly "overbooked"

Plus this has nothing to do with whatever you are asking.

Learn when you're ahead.  

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: migair54
Posted 2013-04-07 23:23:49 and read 13306 times.

SAfety first always... and much more in such a long flight...

Another issue is that the plane might be grounded in BOS because of that, so returning to LAX where i´m sure they have a stby plane and crew and Maintenance services is the most logical option to avoid more problems later.

Max landing weight can be override in case of emergency as everybody has said previously, usually only long haul planes and not all have the jettison system, in case of a emergency even a B747 will land overweight but if they have another issue they will just fly low to burn more fuel and dump fuel. Usually all the plane landing above the MLW will undergo a small check by MX, it´s in the MX manual what to do and check in every type of plane.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: UA191
Posted 2013-04-08 00:43:16 and read 12643 times.

Quoting airportugal310 (Reply 19):
Flight oversold? Hardly. I was going to be flying standby on this flight last night and it was hardly "overbooked"

They asked for volunteers to be bumped.  
Also - it does have relevance, as someone responded with an answer that took load into consideration.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: Asteriskceo
Posted 2013-04-08 01:09:51 and read 12435 times.

Quoting UA191 (Reply 21):
They asked for volunteers to be bumped.  
Also - it does have relevance, as someone responded with an answer that took load into consideration.

It is my understanding that VX does not oversell their flights.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: longhauler
Posted 2013-04-08 06:43:53 and read 9717 times.

Quoting MSJYOP28Apilot (Reply 18):
Anything above that weight and the manufacturer cannot gurantee that the aircraft will maintain its structural integrity.

An overweight landing is not normally a structural issue, it is a performance issue. And it certainly isn't a structural issue with the A320.

The difference between an overweight landing or not, is that for one a maintenance inspection is performed, For every one that I have been involved with, the inspection stopped at the first check point. And some were pretty hard landings! These are pretty tough birds.

That being said though, there are performance procedures to be followed. Starting with a landing distance calculation, and on a dry runway, it is normally not a factor. Another calculation is whether in Config FULL, a go around can be made at that weight ... on one engine! (Some airports have second segment climb issues).

Then, brake cooling has to be calculated, and "hot brakes" must be expected.

The decision to return is ultimately the Captain's, but he would have had help in that decision. From the on-board crew and descriptions of the vibration, to maintenance and their input on possibilities. It could have been anything from flight control issues or damage on take-off, to hatches left open, to pressure seal leaks. Some are dangerous, some are not. It is always wise, when possible, to get the ship back on the ground, sort it out there.

Quoting UA191 (Reply 7):
How is an overweight landing not unsafe, though?

I can understand your concern, however, the fact that fuel dumping is not possible, and that overweight landings are certified, indicates that they will be completed safely 100% of the time. We do overweight landings often in the simulator, and other than hotter than normal brakes, I see nothing unusual.

As I said above, it is more a performance issue. For aircraft that DO have fuel jettison capability, like the B767-300ER I fly, it is not for fear of the weight, but more to get it lighter, when possible, to keep the numbers low on landing.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: tp1040
Posted 2013-04-08 08:03:41 and read 8796 times.

Anybody have a liveatc clip of this? Flightaware shows they stopped the climb at 20k and returned at a fairly normal descent rate.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: N766UA
Posted 2013-04-08 08:52:13 and read 8312 times.

Quoting mcdu (Reply 10):
The B6 landing was a known gear issue.

And continues to be an issue every few months. I don't know why Airbus can't fix this...

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: B6JFKH81
Posted 2013-04-08 14:53:18 and read 4028 times.

Quoting N766UA (Reply 25):
And continues to be an issue every few months. I don't know why Airbus can't fix this...

That is a Messier design issue and a mod did, in fact, get released after the B6 incident happened. B6 modified all a/c that had the pre-mod s/n's installed on them, it was done in-house. We have not had a 90-degree incident since then.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: Elevated
Posted 2013-04-08 22:11:26 and read 3343 times.

Quoting Asteriskceo (Reply 22):
It is my understanding that VX does not oversell their flights.

That's a myth.

Topic: RE: Virgin America 370 Emergency Landing
Username: rfields5421
Posted 2013-04-09 05:28:33 and read 3104 times.

Quoting UA191 (Reply 13):
but I just wanted to know other opinions

Since you compared your flight to the Jet Blue flight - let's compare the two:

Your flight -
1. "Vibration" issue - possible control issues, possible power issue. At this point - the exact issue is unknown, and the exact cause of the 'vibration' was very likely unknown to the pilots. Return to origin airport is best possible option for passengers to be re-booked on another flight or a new aircraft dispatched.

2. Landing Issues - Possibly overweight landing on a very long runway. Very unlikely to overheat brakes. No known gear issues. Extremely low risk of leaving the runway surface or gear collapse. Extremely low risk of fire.


Jetblue flight -
1. Known gear issue - nose gear locked at 90 degree sideways position. No flight control issues.

2. Landing Issues - Certainty of major sparks and extreme heat and likely flame upon landing. Moderate risk of departing runway surface, Moderate risk of gear collapse. Slight to moderate risk of fire. (Though this 90 degree nosegear has happened before - there has never been a major runway departure - but the risks exists) Need to lighten aircraft to minimum possible weight to lower weight upon nose gear. A very long runway to minimize actual braking, and maximize aerodynamic braking.

3. Contengiency - while the Jetblue flight was circling - the airport and ATC were prepared to allow the pilot to land immediately if another issue surfaced.


Your flight was a suspected but unknown issue that could easily grow into a major problem and endanger the flight - staying the air longer than necessary increases risks to the aircraft and passengers.

The Jetblue flight was a known issue - with the best option to make the aircraft as light as possible when it lands. The only way to do that is burn fuel.


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