Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pilot Makes Perfect 767 Wheels Up Landing

I've always been exuberant about flying - especially at those times when pilots face challenges successfully, showing off the experience and skill gained from 1,000s of hours in the air.

Yesterday, Captain Tadeusz Wrona and First Officer Jerzy Szwarc were flying a LOT Polish Airlines 767-300 from Newark, NJ, to Warsaw, Poland, when they faced such a challenge.

The aircraft's wheels would not come down, and even emergency procedures for lowering the landing gear failed.

Nonetheless, as this YouTube video shows, the aircraft made a perfect "wheels up" landing; none of the 220 passengers and 11 crew on board were injured. 

A Reuter story in The Vancouver Sun quoted a passenger: “I thought I would feel like we were hitting the ground violently, but then we felt (the plane) touching the ground and that was it,” said one of the plane’s passengers, Krzysztof Rozycki.

The photograph below shows a Boeing 767 in the LOT livery.

A story in The Aviation Herald said the crew aborted their approach at 3,000 feet when an indicator showed the landing gear were not down. The aircraft then entered a holding pattern for about 80 minutes as alternative approaches to lowering the gear were tried.

 The story describes the wheels up landing as "textbook," noting the pilots had more than 20 years experiences on the Boeings.

I love stories of great flying skill. Of course, pilots are trained to deal with emergencies, and much time and expense is spent on simulator training where pilots enacts all kinds of emergency scenarios.

The elegance of the wheels up landing in Warsaw reminded me of Captain Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger's incredible landing of a US Airways Airbus 320 on the Hudson River in 2009 after he lost all power when geese flew into the engines. Sullenberger's superb flying and ability meant that all 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1549 left the aircraft alive.

This shot shows passengers from Flight 1549 on the starboard wing, and using the emergency exit slides. Boats in the area surrounded the aircraft, and began rescuing passengers. The first shots of the aircraft were taken on a phone by someone on one of the boats.

Both these stories of flying skill intrigue and excite people, in part, because we have a need for heroes - and it seems natural to feel a sense of exuberance when people deal with potentially dangerous situations, overcoming the possibility of tragedy. And we like happy endings.

 Kudos to LOT's Captain Tadeusz Wrona and First Officer Jerzy Szwarc for their well executed emergency landing. LOT may well be proud of them, and all of us who love aviation and the challenges it offers, feel a sense of pride in their accomplishment.

Captain Wrona and First Officer Szwarc follow in a long tradition of great aviators.


  1. The aircraft then entered a holding pattern for about 80 minutes as alternative approaches to lowering the gear were tried.
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  2. You'd be amazed at how great pilots pull these "trick landings" off. I'm pretty sure there's no practice routine for that. Kudos to them!
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