On Saturday, Jan 14 2006 I flew Philippine Airlines PR 102 from Manila to Los Angeles. We boarded and departed a bit late, at about 2220 rather than the expected 2200. About thirty to forty minutes after take off, the captain comes on and says that were crusing at about 18,000 feet - which got me to think that we were a bit low considering how much time had passed since depature. He then said we'd be returning to Manila, due to a "flight control problem", but didnt specify much else, except saying that "everything was under control". I was up in First Class, so I couldnt really hear or see anything wrong with the engines or flaps - but a really high pitched whiny noise did start soon after we descended. The Captain then came back on the P/A and said before we could land, we would fly southwest of the airport at 7,000 feet to dump fuel to make it safe for us to land - the captain said it would take us 25 minutes.
We basically circled for about an hour - it was uncomfortable as we could see the water under us, and there was this consistent whiny noise that I presume was the fuel being dumped? I asked the cabin crew, but they couldn't elborate on the flight control problem or much else. The captain came back on, apologized for taking longer, but stating that we needed to dump as much fuel as possible to make it safe for us to land.
We landed back in Manila, where Lufthansa Tehcnik crews worked on the plane - an hour thirty minutes later we pushed back once again for LAX.
All the purser would say was that the captain mentioned that the flaps would not retract after take off, and that we couldn't fly up to a higher altitude because of it.
All that taken into consideration, how serious might the problem have been? Safety wise, was there any grave risk? Why not just say out the problem?
I think PR handled the situation well apart from the lack of communication between the flight deck and the cabin crew, and indeed the passengers. Once we were on the ground, the cabin crew immideatley served us our post take off drink orders as well as assorted nuts. During the one hour or so delay, served us foccachia sandwiches and were very accomadting. Way to go PR!
But the exccellent service and flight behind and aside, how serious was the problem, at least as far as you can tell from the info above?