03 Mar 2008

Near Disaster at Hamburg Airport

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Spiegel Online:

A Lufthansa jet nearly crashed as it attempted a dramatic landing at Hamburg’s airport during a wind storm on Saturday. All 137 passengers arrived safely after a second landing attempt. German aviation experts say the near-disaster is unprecedented in Germany.

The powerful winter storm system “Emma” that swept across Central Europe this weekend nearly caused a massive air traffic disaster on Saturday in Hamburg. A Lufthansa (A320) jet struggled through 250 kilometer-per-hour (155 miles per hour) crosswinds on its approach into the Hamburg airport. After skidding dramatically across the runway in an aborted landing, the plane’s pilot opted to take off once again. …

Those few seconds were indescribable,” one passenger told German television station N-TV after arriving safely on the ground. A spokesman for Lufthansa told SPIEGEL ONLINE that some of the passengers were quite shaken by their turbulent experience. “Many did not handle it well,” said Wolfgang Weber. “Some were near tears.”

Weber said that the pilot, 39 year-old “Oliver A.”, executed the emergency ascent and re-landing with skill and heroic calm. The pilot told Weber that he had often trained in a flight simulator for conditions like those that besieged his Airbus jet on Saturday — training that he counted on as he guided the plane safely onto the runway on his second approach.

“A situation like that, where a gust of wind hits the plane right as it is landing, is one that our pilots train for time and again,” said Weber.

1:07 video

Hat tip to Dominique Poirier.

10 Feedbacks on "Near Disaster at Hamburg Airport"

golly the goat

wow that was a super job of piloting whata hero …that AIRBUS 320 was almost completely sideways amazing su ch a giant aircraft and yet so vulnerable.
hats off to the pilot.
golly the goat

Adam C

Why in the world did they not divert to a different airport? 155 Mile and hour winds? You have got to be kidding me. That is irresponsible.


OY VEY!!!!!


I must confirm, 155mph winds? How did the amature camera man stay standing? I have been in Typhoons while stationed in Guam and couldn’t have gone out in those type winds. Is that sustained winds or gusting? Me and a friend guessed 70 to maybe 90 mph winds but we just can’t see how the guys filming stayed standing in anything larger.

Second, why in the world would the airport allow the plane to attempt such a landing and then to allow it a second time after the amazing near catastophic event on the first. There is no way an American airport would stay open in such conditions. I am truely amazed and compliment the pilot on his skill. I am sure he needed to change his pants after that one.

Bill McC

This “explanation” of the event by the pilot involved is total fiction. As a 36 year commercial pilot, and current international captain, I can tell you that the pilots involved in this incident had no idea how to land in conditions like this. Unfortunately, manufacturers of airliners, and the airlines themselves, are creating an entire generation of airplane operators who really only know how to push buttons. When real flying skills are required, they are ill-equipped to handle those circumstances. I have watched this video repeatedly, and shown it to other experienced captains, and we all just shake our heads. It is apparent from the video that multiple things were done wrong, and they are extremely lucky that they and their passengers did not wind up in a big ball. Shame on them, their airline, and the aircraft manufacturers for creating this kind of near disaster. Shame on them for attempting to spin it their way, that they recovered the situation with skill and experience. Incompetence in action.


Why was this plane allowed to land in those conditions? Insanity

Mike c

That has to be an error in windspeed. The A320 on final approach does not fly 155 mph. With 155 kts of wind, it would be hovering or flying backwards.. maybe you meant to say 55 mph.

Old Man

That German pilot is lucky he doesn’t work for a US airline otherwise the FAA would pull his ticket and he would be out of a job. The decision to land when the winds are beyond the capacity of the airplane is complete negligence on the part of a pilot. I’ve yet to read a report on what the winds were at the time, but every airport has a multitude of weather equipment who’s data is feed to the pilot via the controller. The pilot should have been completely aware of the wind situation and I doubt the gust that hit the plane on short and final was out of the ordinary for the conditions at the time of approach. I’ve watched the video at least six times and it’s looks like the plane is at its maximum cross wind capacity well before it crosses the runway threshold. I suspect that the cross wind component was at a minimum of 30-40 knots and gust were likely occurring that were in excess of 50 knots, making this a unsafe situation that the pilot decided to pursue all the way down to the runway before executing a go around. Further, not only did this pilot try this once, but twice. Thank god he made it the second time. This pilot has not learned the most import skill in the flying, JUDGEMENT, JUDGEMENT, JUDGEMENT!!!


i am a retired a/c mech ,of a major airlines , one day i was sent on a field trip to repair the left wing tip of a 727 at a smaller airport, when i saw the plane i could not belive that it did not crash ,
we repaired it with metal tape , the co sent a special crew to fly it out to a major overhaul base , we would not fly back with them in that plane ,but the crew did , they are brave or stuped .

Dominique R. Poirier

By the way, I heard sometimes ago that the Airbus A 320, and still more the new A 380 (owing to its fuselage design), would have some problems with side-wind at low speed in similar conditions.

Ever heard about that, guys?


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