What’s The Story Behind JetBlue’s Nose Gear Incident?

On September 21, 2005, 18 years ago, a JetBlue flight from Burbank to New York City had to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport. The incident was brought on by the nose gear failing. But what transpired that day? Let’s look at it more.

JetBlue Landing Gear Failure at LAX |Video Source: BeigeMMP

JetBlue operates flight 292 regularly between Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. That day, the flight’s aircraft was an Airbus A320-232 with the registration N536JB (Canyon Blue), carrying 140 passengers and six crew members; the aircraft took off normally from Burbank at 15:17, but the pilots noticed they couldn’t retract the landing gear.

JetBlue Flight 292
Image Source: aerospaceweb.org

They then flew low over Long Beach Municipal Airport (LGB), a JetBlue hub, to allow personnel in the airport’s control tower to inspect the damage to the plane’s landing gear before attempting to land. The nosewheel was discovered to be 90 degrees to the left, perpendicular to the orientation of the fuselage.

Rather than landing at Long Beach Airport (LGB) or turning back to Burbank, the pilot-in-command decided to land at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to take advantage of its long, wide runways and modern safety equipment.

The pilots flew the aircraft, which can carry up to 21,260 kg of fuel, in a figure eight pattern for more than two hours between Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and LAX to burn fuel and reduce the chance of fire upon landing. This decision also served to lighten the plane, significantly minimizing possible stress on the landing gear and considering cutting the landing speed. Since the Airbus A320 lacks the mechanical mechanism to dump fuel.

Airbus A320-232 N536JB - JetBlue Flight 292
Image Source: Marco Dotti

Emergency services and fire engines were waiting on the LAX ramp ahead of the landing. Even though foam trucks were available, they were not deployed. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) no longer recommends pre-foaming runways, primarily due to concerns that it would deplete firefighting foam supplies that might later be needed to respond to a fire; it is also challenging to determine precisely where a runway should be foamed, and pre-foaming may also reduce the effectiveness of the aircraft’s brakes, potentially causing it to slide off the runway.

The plane touched down on runway 25L, and the nose gear emitted sparks and flames, but the aircraft was undamaged. The pilot-in-command did not employ ground spoilers, reverse thrust, or auto-braking to keep the nose gear off the ground as long as possible. As a result, the plane decelerated more slowly than usual, coming to a stop just 1,000 feet (300 m) from the runway’s end at 18:20. The air traffic control tower reported that there was no fire once the aircraft came to a complete stop, and the passengers deplaned normally through an airstair. No one on board the airplane sustained an injury.

The nose landing gear tires both deflated and tore apart. Despite the unusual nose landing gear arrangement, the plane remained on the runway centerline and continued on its path.

JetBlue Flight 292
Image Source: aerospaceweb.org

What caused the incident?

JetBlue Flight 292
Image Source: Flythebush

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the incident. The Board determined that anti-rotation lugs were fractured and separated during a borescope inspection of the nose wheel assembly.

“The fatigue failure of two anti-rotation lugs due to repeated cyclic pre-landing tests, which allowed the nosewheels to deviate from the 0-degree position on landing gear retraction. A contributing factor was the design of the Brake Steering Control Unit (BSCU) system logic, which prevented the nosewheels from centering. Also contributing was the lack of a procedure to attempt to reset the BSCU system under these conditions.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Airbus released an Operations Engineering Bulletin after the incident. With the help of this technical information, the flight crew reset the brake steering control unit, which regulates the nose landing gear, while in flight.

Image Source: Safety First | Airbus


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