A KLM Boeing 777 returned to Amsterdam on Wednesday following a problem with onboard equipment. KL591 was due to fly to Johannesburg, however, ended up making a 6-hour flight from Amsterdam to Amsterdam.
Every now and again a flight to nowhere takes place. This is the phraseology used for a flight that lands where it departs. Almost all of these flights involve airplanes with faults. However, occasionally they can be used for special flights such as Qantas’ Boeing 747 flights around the Antarctic. Unfortunately, this situation involved the former.
KLM’s flight 591 is scheduled to fly from Amsterdam to Johannesburg daily. The flight typically takes anywhere between 10 hours and 10-hours 30-minutes. However, on Wednesday it took just 6 hours and 13 minutes. Why? The flight never made it to Johannesburg.
Instead, it made a U-turn over Algeria, before returning to Amsterdam with a little detour over France. Due to the limitations of radar coverage over Africa, it is not possible to ascertain where exactly the aircraft turned around, however, global ADS-B coverage provided by satellite is in the works.
After turning around, the aircraft went on to land at Amsterdam at 16:26 local time, having taken off at 10:13 earlier that day. The flight was eventually canceled. The Aviation Heraldreports that the aircraft turned around after both of its weather radars had failed. It is also reported that the fuel quantity indicator was faulty.
This is the second time recently that a KLM aircraft en route to Africa has turned around. On July 30th, a KLM Boeing 747 en route to Nairobi turned around over Greece. That aircraft went on to divert to Frankfurt before returning to Amsterdam. It’s next attempt at the flight the next day was, however, successful.
Why return to base?
You may be wondering why the crew opted to return to Amsterdam as opposed to fixing the issue on the ground in South Africa, or even after the return flight to Amsterdam. Being KLM’s hub, Amsterdam has mechanics on call, in addition to a library of parts. This means that the carrier is able to keep repairs in house, keeping costs down. Had the aircraft continued on to Johannesburg, KLM would’ve needed to find somebody there to fix the problem, likely at a much higher price.
The aircraft returned to Amsterdam in order to complete the fix. It is likely that had it continued on to South Africa, the fix would be needed before the aircraft flew again. Simple Flying contacted a KLM representative for comment, however, we are yet to hear back.
By Tom Boon