FedEx MD-11 flap issue at Sydney Airport

Thoughts

I’m just getting around to reading about this. A FedEx MD-11 freighter had an aborted landing at Sydney Airport last weekend, with reports of stuck flaps limiting their ability to slow down on their second approach. The pilots issued a mayday, and notified Sydney air traffic control that they’d “require the full length of the runway”.

The plane landed at 365 km/h. To get an idea just how fast that is, Adipasqu on the Airliners.net forum linked to Boeing’s FAA Reference Code and Approach Speed document, which lists the approach speed for the MD-11F at 155 knots, or about 287 km/h (not that far off a 747-400). Even if we assume a higher landing weight and faster approach speed, that’s a huge delta.

No, not that delta. Or that Delta. Or even… thank you.

Aviation journalist Andrew Curran reported the potential reasons at Simple Flying:

Possible problems onboard the FedEx MD-11 on Saturday evening include flap asymmetry (where there is a difference between left and right side flap positions); split flaps (where the flaps may be symmetric, but either the inner flap or outer flap pair has not reached the commanded position); and stuck flaps (where one flap fails to do as commanded, causing the opposite flaps to stop automatically).

Michael Evans at the The Sydney Morning Herald published part of the exchange of the crew and air traffic control which made me smile. Job well done!

“I really appreciate the help, sir. We had a flight control malfunction.” The pilot expressed concerns about “a flap” and treated it as a “flight control issue”.

The air traffic controller congratulated the pilot: “Very well handled,” he said.

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