Praise for crew after Virgin Atlantic plane drama

The Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet landing at Gatwick airport after developing a landing-gear fault. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.
The Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet landing at Gatwick airport after developing a landing-gear fault. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire.

An airline passenger says the pilot and crew of a plane that was forced into an emergency landing were “cool as ice cubes” throughout.

Richard Carter, 52, of Foxglove Road, Stamford, was one of 447 people flying from Gatwick to Las Vegas on Monday.

Music merchandiser Richard Carter, from Stamford, who has won a top industry award EMN-141203-155241001

Music merchandiser Richard Carter, from Stamford, who has won a top industry award EMN-141203-155241001

The Virgin Atlantic flight had been in the air for about an hour when the pilot told passengers something had gone wrong with the plane’s hydraulic systems.

It soon became clear that one of the five undercarriages was not working. Richard and his fellow passengers were asked to hold tight while the pilot took the Boeing 747 went through some emergency manoeuvres to try to dislodge the landing gear.

“It was like the best rollercoaster you have ever been on, and it would have been fun if it wasn’t so serious,” said Richard.

“I wouldn’t exactly say we dived, but we ascended and descended then did some rolling moved from left to right. People were starting to get a little concerned.

“I was in first class. Towards the back there were a lot of kids and a lot of holidaymakers who might not fly very often. You could hear that a few were sobbing.”

Once it became clear the plane would have to make an emergency landing at Gatwick, it was just a matter of waiting for the final descent, when passengers were asked to adopt the brace position.

“The cabin crew were as cool as ice cubes,” said Richard. “They were reassuring people that this was what they were trained to do. The captain gave us his word that everyone was going to get off the plane safely and be okay.

“All I could think of was my family. I sent them a text. By then I believe my girlfriend was already aware of what was going on. It was an ordeal.”

Pilot David Williams made what Richard called “one of the best landings I have had in a while,” but the danger was not over.

He said: “The scariest part was the cabin crew screaming to stay in position. The aircraft was listing to the right and it would have been quite serious if it had collapsed.

“It was like a scene from the Italian Job. Everyone on the right side of the plane had to move gingerly to the left and make their way to the door.”

Thankfully everyone got off the plane safely. Most then flew to Las Vegas the next day.

Speaking from his hotel room in Vegas on Wednesday, Richard said: “Thoughts of family are what come into your mind at times like that. I just wanted them to know how much I cared.”

Richard, who flies up to 90 times a year and who works as a music merchandiser for Live Nation Merchandise, said he never doubted the ability of the Virgin Atlantic 
crew.

He added: “I definitely don’t want to ever go through it again. But the most dangerous thing I did that day was driving to the airport.

“I hope that Virgin has some kind of system of recognition for that pilot and crew. Without them I think it would have been pandemonium.”