Etihad’s controversial A380 battle against wind in Heathrow

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Etihad Airways Airbus A380, coming from Abu Dhabi, was met by Storm Dennis’ winds raging to up to 68 km/h at London Heathrow (UK) on February 15, 2020. In a video, which has since gone viral, the superjumbo is seen hanging almost at a 90-degree angle to the runway, before finally touching down. 

Storm Dennis, the second one in the UK for the past few weeks, caused significant disturbance and hundreds of flights were cancelled at London Heathrow Airport (LHR). Arriving there, Etihad pilots used the crosswind (also known as crab) tactic to land the aircraft. 

While the pilots were hailed for their skill on social media, not everyone found the execution of the landing excellent, reportedly at least. In what is claimed to be a leaked memo, Etihad’s training department criticizes pilots for the maneuver performance, stating that such landing in a sim simulator would have resulted in grade 1 for both pilots, the Paddle Your Own Kanoo reported.

“There is a time to give an approach away in the interest of safety,” the memo supposedly reads. AeroTime News has reached out to Etihad for comment. 

Airbus A380 versus crosswinds

Airbus A380s are known to have made some impressive landings in strong winds. After all, the superjumbo was made to operate easily with very strong crosswinds, as Airbus proclaimed back when the aircraft was still in the making. 

In 2006, still at the testing stage, 23 knots (42 km/h) crosswind testing was a minimum requirement for the A380’s Type Certification. Instead of living up to the standard, Airbus tested the airliner-in-the-making in the crosswind conditions twice as extreme: above 40 knots (74 km/h) and up to 56 knots (104 km/h).

The superjumbo capabilities were perfectly illustrated in a video from June 2019, which shows how several pilots of different types of aircraft dealt with heavy winds in a UK airport. Smaller aircraft, including Flybe Embraer and EasyJet Airbus, opted not to try their luck and diverted elsewhere. Meanwhile, wind gusts caused no problems for Emirates A380.


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