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US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 5:10 pm
by mon330
Friday, September 12, 2008
Flight: US 734 (US Airways)
Route: PHL (Philadelphia PA, United States) to MAN (Manchester, England)
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200WL



At the outset, I should like to express my distaste at the current trend by US carriers in using Boeing 757s on transatlantic flights. My reasons for this stem from no aversion to the aircraft itself; rather, I simply question the suitability of the relatively small airplane on a long route. My main issues are passenger comfort and no seat back TVs; also, transatlantic flights aren't exactly cheap these days, and airlines are providing a significantly inferior product for no reduction in cost to the consumer.

I am a Star Alliance member and frequently use US Airways via Philadelphia to vacation in Las Vegas when the direct bmi flight is sold out or much more expensive. My outbound US Airways flight in August was on one of its A330s: the service aboard is no bmi, but the staff was genuinely cheerful, the food fine, and the varied video entertainment engaging. The aircraft also looked recently refurbished, as well as being comfortable, spacious, clean and quiet.


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US Airways is the latest in a number of US carriers to drop the operation of wide-bodied aircraft in favour of the 757 on its transatlantic services to Manchester. It isn't only me who thinks this deserves criticism. As I was settling into my seat a good half hour prior to scheduled departure, a passenger in front commented on the airplane's smallness; another asked a fellow passenger if this indeed was a flight to Manchester, England and not Manchester, New Hampshire. Confident passengers, there.

Philadelphia had very rainy weather as we pushed back at our scheduled time of 8:35 PM. We steadily made our way to runway 27L. I marvelled at the size of the newly fitted winglets bobbing as we rode the bumps of the taxiways. We shot into the black stormy sky, and I observed keenly the brief glimpses of the city lights outside the window between the bumpy clouds.

Within a minute or so, we levelled and thrust was reduced to maintain a lower speed below 10,000 feet. I assumed this was because of traffic in the Philly area. Except ten minutes later, we were still at a very low altitude with flaps still in their take-off configuration. Strange, I thought. So it came as no great surprise when the first officer announced we had to return to Philadelphia due to “a problem with one of the flight controls.”

I deduced from this that the flaps were not able to retract. We were to orbit for about thirty minutes over the Atlantic Seaboard and presumably jettison fuel into the ocean. There would be emergency services standing by upon landing, but the first officer calmly assured us this was a mandatory precautionary measure in this type of instance. He added the landing would be faster than normal and we would be using the entire length of the airport's left runway.

My fellow passengers seemed, at least outwardly, surprisingly calm and unconcerned. Perhaps this was because the pilot's voice was very faint over the general noisiness of the 757's engines and air conditioning vents.

As we were vectored onto a bouncy final approach, the cabin crew took their seats. Runway 27L is the longest at PHL, over 10,000 feet in length, so it made sense we were using this. Outside the fast moving ground and stormy weather looked like something from National Geographic's Air Crash Investigation.

As we cleared the airport's perimeter, still with flaps in their take-off configuration, I was initially alarmed to see the smaller runway 26 hundreds of feet below. I was now expecting an aborted approach; however, I had forgotten how staggered Philadelphia's runways are. We clearly landed at a higher speed, but it was surprisingly gentle. Reverse thrust was engaged in an instant and thankfully we came to a stop a comfortable distance from the end of the runway. Panic over. Countless fire engines, ambulance and police vehicles escorted us back to our gate. Major kudos must go to the pilot for his excellent landing in such compromised conditions.

As we waited on the airplane to receive further news, I could see mechanics shining a torch at the flaps of the right wing. I cannot confirm flaps were the problem, but it's the conclusion I have arrived at. We were then told to deplane.

Back inside the terminal, we were told we were to receive an upsizing of aircraft to a Boeing 767-200. We were offered free drinks and snacks while the plane was brought from the hangar and prepared for its unforeseen flight. The entire flight crew would be the same. I pitied the pilots who had to start over. At this point I will say that US Airways handled the drama admirably, and were very keen to get us on our way with as little a delay as was feasible.

So we eventually took to the still boisterous sky close to 1 AM. This time, the flight was thankfully uneventful. We landed on Manchester's runway 23R at 12:05 PM local time, just over three hours late, which is quite impressive given the circumstances. Although the 767 is a more suitable aircraft for a lengthy flight, the only video entertainment was one movie. Nothing else. I can't really sleep on planes, so it's a good job I had my iPod with me.

Your thoughts on this trip report are appreciated. I do not mean parts of the above to sound like an anti-Boeing 757 rant; after all, this incident proves it is not crippled by a flight control failure. But I stand by my remarks on the use of 757s on transatlantic flights. I accept it may well be more conducive to an airline's financial health over operating an A330/A340 or 767/777 on its existing routes, but it still represents a great compromise from a passenger viewpoint.

Years ago I travelled transatlantic on a 757. Its single-aisle layout means aisles are routinely blocked; one cannot take a detour down the neighbouring aisle. Surely it is not a good time for the cabin crew either. Furthermore, Manchester Airport is the largest airport outside London in the United Kingdom; one might accept a 757 at a smaller airport for the convenience of travelling from their home city. Another issue is fuel: there have been many reports of 757s running low on fuel while servicing flights between the US and Europe; abnormally strong headwinds or dense traffic patterns surely jeopardize destination arrivals with ample fuel supplies.

I will finish by once again praising US Airways' reaction to this incident. I had complete confidence in the airline's approach to passenger safety.

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 5:50 pm
by AmricanShamrok
Hi Mon330 cool report and I totally agree with you and the transatlantic 757s. All US carriers operating into Shannon [Ireland's 2nd airport just as MAN is the UK's] use 757s now where years ago most operated 767s and even 777s once or twice. A big downgrade and the flights are bit more turbulent too, I find.

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 5:54 pm
by upsmd11
I can see both sides of this situation with the 757 going transatlantic. The fact is that airlines have to do what makes profit, they have stakeholders who expect this. They also will be safe and fly a plane that is capable and has the minimum standards.

I do agree about the comfort and niceness of having a widebody across the Atlantic but much smaller planes (737BJ, A319CJ, etc.) traverse this route daily as well.

Cheers,
John

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 5:55 pm
by mhodgson


Quoting Mon330 (Thread starter):

US Airways is the latest in a number of US carriers to drop the operation of wide-bodied aircraft in favour of the 757 on its transatlantic services to Manchester.

I believe this is only temporary; the A330 will be back soon.

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:23 pm
by ba319-131
Interesting report & situation, thanks for posting.

Quoting Mon330 (Thread starter):
I should like to express my distaste at the current trend by US carriers in using Boeing 757s on transatlantic flights. My reasons for this stem from no aversion to the aircraft itself; rather, I simply question the suitability of the relatively small airplane on a long route. My main issues are passenger comfort and no seat back TVs

- Whilst I have no issue with 757's, I too would prefer not to fly one on a transatlantic flight, prefer bigger planes  Smile

Re PTV's, as a side note , CO are begining to install these on the 757 fleet.

Quoting Mon330 (Thread starter):
We landed on Manchester's runway 23R at 12:05 PM local time, just over three hours late, which is quite impressive given the circumstances

- Not bad at all!

Looks like US handled the problem really well, well done to them!

Regards

Mark

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:41 pm
by kimberlyRJ


Quoting Mon330 (Thread starter):
We were to orbit for about thirty minutes over the Atlantic Seaboard and presumably jettison fuel into the ocean.

Boeing 757's are not fitted with jettisons, so they would have been burning fuel off...

Seems like a normal emergency landing, the type we like...

As for taking a Boeing 752 over the Atlantic, the smallest I would like to do it in is a Boeing 763...

Kimberly

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:57 pm
by BlueShamu330s


Quoting Mon330 (Thread starter):
My main issues are passenger comfort and no seat back TVs; also, transatlantic flights aren't exactly cheap these days, and airlines are providing a significantly inferior product for no reduction in cost to the consumer.

Nice TR. but this particular comment needs contesting.

The first time I travelled to the US from the UK was in April 1979, some 27 years ago. It was a school trip. Outbound was LGW-JFK on a Wolrd Airways DC8, the return EWR-LGW on a TransInternational DC-10.

The airfare, and I still have the red carbon counterfoil, was £405, or about $725.

The inflight entertainment on the DC8 was the cabin crew smoking behind a curtain in the rear galley, whilst on the DC10 we saw a grainy movie on a screen seemingly miles away, with piped audio.

Looking on Kayak and Expedia, the same trip can be made next month for £278.

Perhaps someone on here can work out how much £405 of 1979's money would equate to today, but even without that, it is wrong to lament that transatlantic fares these days are no longer cheap, when infact the reverse is true, that perhaps fares have been cheap for far too long, to the detriment of some carriers.

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:59 pm
by BlueShamu330s


Quoting Kimberlyrj (Reply 5):
As for taking a Boeing 752 over the Atlantic, the smallest I would like to do it in is a Boeing 763...

Another reason for OpenSkies to outsource  stirthepot 

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 10:06 pm
by staralliance38
Good TR!

I notice that US operates its 757s on Florida routes lol. Glad you flew US and I hoped you liked it.

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:37 pm
by LGA777
Very nice TR and very fair towards US delaying you MON330. As Modgson said in reply 3 this is very temporary, the A-330 returns to MAN Oct 2nd. For Sept US is operating the 757 3 days a week and 2 757's 4 days a week. So far on certain days the two 757's have had combined loads of 60-80 paxs more than the 330's hold so there is some method to US's thinking perhaps.

Hopefully if you fly US accross the pond again you will get the A330 r/t and On Time.

Cheers

LGA777

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:05 am
by kimberlyRJ


Quoting BlueShamu330s (Reply 7):
Another reason for OpenSkies to outsource

We have Boeing 763's... For OpenSkies market segment the B752 makes sense right now, does not mean I like it! Never fly the route, I am not to keen on France  Sad

Kimberly.

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am
by chepos
It sounds like the ground crew in PHL was excellent in keeping the passeners calm and collected. I hvae heard of times when outbound flights to Europe have been delayed in excess of 8 hours because of the crews timing out,
Please be advised, the downgrade to MAN is just temporary, becuase of the cargo on that the A330 is ket for this route (F# 734-735). The A330 should be back on the PHL-MAN route shortly.

Rgds,

Cheposte

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:55 pm
by pumaknight


Quoting BlueShamu330s (Reply 6):
Nice TR. but this particular comment needs contesting.

The first time I travelled to the US from the UK was in April 1979, some 27 years ago. It was a school trip. Outbound was LGW-JFK on a Wolrd Airways DC8, the return EWR-LGW on a TransInternational DC-10.

The airfare, and I still have the red carbon counterfoil, was £405, or about $725.

The inflight entertainment on the DC8 was the cabin crew smoking behind a curtain in the rear galley, whilst on the DC10 we saw a grainy movie on a screen seemingly miles away, with piped audio.

Looking on Kayak and Expedia, the same trip can be made next month for £278.

Perhaps someone on here can work out how much £405 of 1979's money would equate to today, but even without that, it is wrong to lament that transatlantic fares these days are no longer cheap, when infact the reverse is true, that perhaps fares have been cheap for far too long, to the detriment of some carriers.

First off, nice trip report and glad that your emergency ended so well. Well done US. I flew with them to Phillly (and bonced onto Orland) and it was excellent service by all of the US staff.

On the cost of flying - I think we have become so used to low cost that anything higher seems unnatural. Maybe the recent troubles in the world economy, airlines and financial industries are more about resetting the cost of business to a more reasonable and sustainable level.

Back when I was a kid, my parents took me to California - holdiay of a lifetime especially when you are 9yrs old. They were not poor, and in well paid jobs (not rich but rich enough that I wanted for nothing). But they had to save really hard to afford the airfare. I cant remember the exact figure, but suffice to say that it was equivilent to a business class fare today!!

We are lucky to have such affordable airfares and the opportunity to fly as often as we can these days. I hope we can sustain the fares, but given the recent glut of airlines merging and going bust, I would suggest that the days of cheap tickets are gone!! Get used to flying an an airframe that fits the loading demand of the route.

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:30 pm
by mon330
Hi everybody

Thanks for your replies. Glad you enjoyed my report!

I'm glad to read that US are putting the A330 back on the MAN route soon. I don't mind the 757 on domestic/shorter runs, and I accept that airlines have to do what keeps their finances in the best possible health.

Mark

RE: US Air B757 PHL-MAN W/ Emergency Landing @ PHL

Posted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 5:03 pm
by TDubJFK


Quoting StarAlliance38 (Reply 8):
I notice that US operates its 757s on Florida routes lol.

I don't get this comment. What relevance does this have to the Trip Report?