MIAMI – Virgin Atlantic Flight 43, a Boeing 747-400 flying from London Gatwick to Las Vegas, experienced a landing gear malfunction shortly after takeoff from Gatwick. Based on photos, it appeared that the right wing gear–the four wheels furthest to the right on the 747–jammed and would not lower.
Upon discovering this problem, Flight 43 traveled west and entered a holding pattern near the Bristol Channel south of Wales. After four circles in the holding pattern at 32,000 feet, it performed a low pass over Gatwick to examine the landing gear, and photos show that the righter-most gear would not lower.
The 747 re-entered a holding pattern south of Gatwick at 2,275 feet to burn additional fuel as it prepared to make an emergency landing. It completed another low level pass over Gatwick to confirm that it was the right landing gear was the problem.
After confirmation, the aircraft entered a holding pattern for the third time as the crew began preparing for an emergency landing. At approximately 10:48 AM EST, word quickly spread that Flight 43 had a successful landing, and there was little to no damage.
After it came to a complete stop, the aircraft was immediately met by emergency vehicles and remained on Gatwick’s single runway after landing putting other inbound planes into a holding pattern for quite some time.
Virgin Atlantic Flight 43 was operated by aircraft G-VROM. This aircraft was delivered to Virgin Atlantic in May of 2001 and is leased from GECAS. From November of 2009 to early 2012 the aircraft was operated by the former Bolivian carrier AeroSur. It reentered the Virgin Atlantic fleet in March of 2012 under the name Barbarella.