Friday 18 April 2014

Four pilots over London issued most severe ‘mayday’ calls at height of Valentine’s Day storm

A plane takes off at Heathrow Airport as wind and rain hits Britain and Ireland
A plane takes off at Heathrow Airport as wind and rain hits Britain and Ireland

Five jets that were set to land at Heathrow and Gatwick during the Valentine’s Day storm were forced to issue distress calls as they were thrown around “like paper planes”, it has been reported.

At least 30 London-bound flights had to be diverted around the country in all, including four where pilots sent out the most severe “mayday” emergency messages to controllers.

On one BA flight from Moscow to Heathrow the pilot aborted an attempted landing “as the wheels touched the runway” because of a 60mph crosswind, leaving the 143 passengers screaming with fear.

According to reports in the Sunday Times, three of the “mayday” flights were believed to be running low on reserve fuel, while the fourth suffered problems with its rudder.

The ITV reporter Jonathan Swain, on board BA flight 767 on his way back from covering the Winter Olympics in Russia, said passengers were left “very shaken” by the aborted landing.

He wrote: “My most frightening flight ever. People screaming on flight as thrown around by strong winds. Pilot aborted as wheel touched runway.

“Even the cabin crew were worried. We were like a paper plane swinging over London approaching HRW [Heathrow].”

A spokesperson for BA told the newspaper: “All planes last night were low on fuel but we had more than enough to get to Manchester. We understand other [operators’] aircraft were on mayday.”

There have now been five deaths as a result of the most recent storm in a series to batter Britain, described by Labour leader Ed Miliband as a “wake up call” to the dangers of climate change.

One person was killed and 15 injured after a huge wave smashed through a window on the cruise ship Marco Polo in the English Channel.

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