A United Airlines aircraft that turned back from its Atlantic crossing yesterday due to a technical fault was sent out over Dublin Bay as a delaying tactic rather than landing immediately in Dublin Airport.
The manoeuvre was to facilitate the departure of US vice president Mike Pence.
Mr Pence was flying from Dublin to Shannon Airport, where he was travelling on to Doonbeg, Co Clare, to stay at the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel, owned by US president Donald Trump.
UAL127, which left Dublin yesterday at 1.08pm for a flight to Dulles International Airport near Washington DC, was about two hours into its flight when it requested permission to return.
The 757-200 twin jet can carry about 180 passengers.
The aircraft, which was flying at almost 34,000ft was cleared to return. By the time it reached the west coast of Ireland, it was flying at about 8,000ft. It is thought it was forced to descend early due to a pressurisation problem. At 8,000ft, the aircraft no longer requires to be pressurised.
Flight tracker shows the aircraft remained at around 8,000ft from 4.22pm until 5.05pm, at which point it began its descent into Dublin Airport. However, prior to its descent, it entered ‘the hold’, which is a manoeuvre designed to delay an aircraft already in flight.
It is understood the flight spent 20-30 minutes in the hold, out over Dublin Bay, before being vectored over Howth and then making a final approach to the airport. It landed at 5.21pm. It had been in the air four hours and 13 minutes.
A source said if the pilot of UAL127 had declared an emergency, the flight would have been given priority.
Because an emergency was not declared, it was possible to delay it to get Mr Pence out.
The Irish Aviation Authority said it was aware of the incident but did not provide further comment.