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Fri, Jun 22, 2012

Hydraulic Failure Causes JetBlue Scare

A320 Eventually Landed Safely After Four Hours 'Careening Through The Sky'

A JetBlue A320 (similar airplane pictured) on a flight from Las Vegas to New York Tuesday reportedly lost two of its three hydraulic systems during the flight, which forced the pilot to circle an area south the Nevada city for four hours burning off enough fuel to make a safe landing. Passengers described the experience as the airplane "careening wildly through the sky" as it made steep turns and "lurched from side to side."

One of the pilots of the plane told ATC that "we've lost two hydraulic systems," and declared an emergency, according to a report in the New York Post. JetBlue confirmed that the incident occurred.

The plane, which had just departed from Las Vegas, carried five hours of fuel. The A320 is unable to dump fuel, so the pilot had to stay airborne while it was burned off. One passenger described the flight as "four hours of hell." Another described "an obvious metal screeching" just as the airplane lifted off from McCarran International Airport.

Dave Esser, an ERAU professor based in Florida, said that the side-to-side swerving was a likely sign of a loss of lateral control. But Esser said the passengers were not in serious danger because of the backup systems and redundancies built into the Airbus. However, an Airbus manual indicated that the simultaneous failure of two hydraulic systems is "improbable in operation."

The airplane did eventually land safely. The FAA and NTSB will conduct an investigation.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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