back to article Heathrow 777 crash: Ice to blame

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has released its final report into the 17 January 2008 crash-landing of a Boeing 777 at London's Heathrow, confirming its earlier interim conclusion that ice in the fuel feed system caused the incident. BA038 (G-YMMM), flying in after a routine flight from Beijing, suffered reduced …


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  1. Lionel Baden

    feeling like a div asking

    but why cant they heat the fuel lines using heat exchange from the exhaust

    1. Anton Ivanov

      That is exactly where it went fubar

      They do not heat it from the exhaust, they use the heat from the engine oil instead.

      If I understand the report correctly that is exactly where it went fubar - the ice got stuck on the heat exchanger and the oil was not hot enough to melt it straight away. This is also something which is extremely difficult to solve. Even if the system manages to detect ice going down the pipe using let's say changes in the fuel optical properties it still has a very small window of opportunity to heat it up and not a lot to heat it with in the first place.

      It will be very interesting to see how they will manage to solve it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "There are some problems with your post."

        i guess teh only thing they could do is heat the entire compartment the fuel line is lying in as the heat change would be less violent and easier to counteract

  2. paulc


    most probably find the item used for the water test on the fuel was a counterfeit...

    Fuel in bowsers and storage tanks has to be regularly tested for water contamination and this requires a small sample being drawn off and pulled through a test capsule. If there is more than the permitted amount of water in the fuel, the capsule will change colour.

  3. NightFox


    Considering that the fuel tanks were ruptured and it's pretty amazing there was no fire, one of the most worrying things is that several passengers attempted to take personal items with them when evacuating the plane. By the sounds of it there was not a situation of panic, so this can't be put down to irrational behaviour, but rather intentional actions. I guess these are probably those same people who take a full-size suitcase on board with them as hand luggage, ignore the pre-flight safety briefing because they've flown before and are up out of their seats turning their Blackberries on and opening the overhead lockers the second the wheels touch the ground.

    If I'm ever told to evacuate a plane and somebody in front of me starts reaching for his bags, he'll know about it alright.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You gotta be joking

      You are joking about turning the Crackberry off right?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "I guess these are probably those same people who take a full-size suitcase on board with them as hand luggage,"

      Actually they could be people who had important medicines with in their bags. Ever considered that? Not much good surviving an air crash if you collapse from a heart attack outside because you had to leave your pills in the cabin.

      But yes , I'd tend to go along with you in that if I saw someone wheeling a case out of the emergency exit I don't think I'd be particularly diplomatic at that point.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Life saving drugs must be carried on person at all times. they are not to be stowed in lockers.

        get yourself a pouch! - you should be ready to evacuate at all times! Read the saftey Card!!

        Under no circumstances should you endanger the lives of others by faffing in a locker and blocking an exit when you are supposed to be evacuating!

        People need to be heavily prosecuted for obstrucing an evacuation, and endangering the lives of others.

        anyone who thinks its ok to let 20 people die from smoke inhalation because they forgot thier inhaler was in the locker and there was no smoke at thier end of the plane = Selfish git! & deserves to burn in hell (see icon)

        1. Equitas

          Travel Prepared

          Rule 1: Never put as hold baggage what you're not prepared to live without

          Rule 2: Never stow in a locker what you're not prepared to leave the plane without

          Rule 3: Travel suitably dressed. Personally I don't travel long-distance in a plane other than wearing a 511 shirt with deep concealed pockets which are perfectly roomy enough to contain wallet, passport, camera etc. Also relatively secure.

    3. Jim Morrow
      Paris Hilton

      lighting jet fuel

      >> Considering that the fuel tanks were ruptured and it's pretty amazing there was no fire

      why? it's not that easy to set fire to jet fuel. the stuff' is kerosene-based. it's pretty much identical to diesel wrt ignition point, volatility and so on. don't believe everything you've seen in bruce willis movies about jet fuel exploding.

      paris icon because she knows a thing or two about how to make things go with a bang.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Jim is correct...

        And in higher performance airplanes like the SR-71 the fuel was even thicker. I forget what the fuel is called but it's almost jelly-like in consistency. You could throw a lit match into a bucket of this stuff and it would put the match out. The fact of the matter is most of Hollywood is bogus. Try throwing a lit cigarette into a puddle of gasoline. More likely than not it will simply put the cigarette out. The fumes are always way more flammable than the gas itself.

  4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Wikipedia confirms my recollection

    Initially this was suspected as a failure of electronic control of the engine. Evidently not. (also records other theories)

    I mo

    ust remember to look at comp.risks digest in a little while, see if it's covered.

  5. hmmm

    A potential solution

    We could light a fire in the fuel tank which would melt the ice. Problem solved.

  6. James 47

    I thought they warmed the fuel by piping it through the air con

    Judging by the stink of fuel in some planes

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Not just heated

        The air itself is taken ("bled") from the engine's compressor.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      lovely smells....

      thats only on RyanAir AFAIK....

  7. Chris Seiter
    IT Angle

    Sorry attempt at a permissions joke

    Why didn't they give it flight number 555? That way the plane could "read" the instruments and "execute" a flight plan, but it couldn't "modify" anything like adding ice.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Still, what a great emergency landing

    I know these pilot's are trained and all, but it was a great landing all the same.

    Some ice, shaken but not stirred.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Ice to Blame?

    Was ice to blame, or wast it just poor design?

    At least for once as is common for most Aviation Related incidents they didnt just blame the poor old pilots! - Aviation manufacturing being big business and high prestige little is allowed to be said about failure in design or manufacture (except of course in the case and perhaps becuase of it and the subsequent decline of British Aviation the worlds first commercial Jet Airliner!? - them yankees also had an axe to grind over the concorde too!)

  10. Equitas

    Problem not insoluble

    'The "unusually cold environment" during flight BA038 was "a region of particularly cold air, with ambient temperatures as low as -76°C, in the area between the Urals and Eastern Scandinavia"'

    Maintaining the entire fuel system at a temperature which will enable safe and reliable operation is hardly a difficult technical problem.

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