Passenger jet forced to divert after systems failure

A Cork-bound passenger jet was forced to divert to Shannon Airport after the aircraft suffered a hydraulic failure which crippled a number of its systems.

Aer Lingus flight EI-725 from London Heathrow was due in Cork at 11.15pm on Sunday.

Some 150 passengers and a crew of six were onboard the Airbus A320-200 jet.

While the flight was off the South West coast and about 15 minutes from landing, the crew contacted air traffic controllers at Shannon to report they had suffered a hydraulic systems failure on board.

The system uses pressurised fluid to operate critical mechanical parts, including flaps, speed brakes, and landing gear. Modern jets have three or more hydraulic systems.

The crew had intended continuing to Cork Airport, but opted instead to divert to Shannon so that they could avail of the longer runway.

The longer of the two runways at Cork is 2,133m compared to Shannon’s 3,200m — the longest in Ireland.

The crew declared a Pan-Pan call which is not as serious as a Mayday distress. It indicates an emergency but no immediate risk to the plane or passengers.

The pilot told controllers the crew had no nose-wheel steering capability and the plane would need to be towed off the runway after landing.

The crew also advised controllers that because of the hydraulic failure, they would have to manually deploy the landing gear into position. This meant a crank had to be used to release the landing gear which then dropped down with gravity and locked into place.

Airport crash crews were standing by for the jet when it touched down at 11.15pm. Emergency crews raced down the runway to meet the aircraft and quickly surrounded it.

A tug was brought out to tow the aircraft to the terminal but only after the runway had been blocked for about 40 minutes.

It was midnight before the aircraft was finally towed clear of the runway while it was a further 15 minutes before the jet reached the terminal building.

Several busses were provided to bring passengers on to Cork.

An spokeswoman for Aer Lingus confirmed the flight diverted to Shannon due to a technical fault.

The airline said the aircraft was being serviced and was expected to return to service late yesterday.


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