A Myanmar pilot saved the day after his aircraft’s landing gear failed, forcing the jet into an emergency landing with no front wheels on Sunday morning, an official said.
The nail-biting touchdown – in which nobody was injured – was the second instance of a malfunctioning flight in less than a week within the country.
The Myanmar Airlines flight UB-103 – an Embraer-190 model – was grounded at around 9am in Mandalay (2.30am GMT), a city popular among foreign tourists, with all 89 people on board including seven crew members, safe.
An unverified video circulated on social media showing a graceful landing before the nose of the jet tipped over and ground to a halt.
The pilot tried a backup emergency procedure to pull down the wheels but that was unsuccessful.
The aircraft did two fly-bys past the tower for air controllers to check visually whether the wheels had deployed.
The captain followed emergency procedures to dump fuel to reduce the landing weight, and made a safe landing at 9:09am, said the statement.
Video apparently was shot by one of the passengers and posted online showed an urgent but orderly evacuation of the passengers and crew.
Passengers were seen walking away from the plane across the airfield, several of them smiling.
In another video posted online, smoke could be seen coming into the cabin around a passenger’s legs as many began rushing to the emergency exits to evacuate.
Ye Htut Aung, deputy director general of Myanmar’s Civil Aviation Department, said the pilot tried repeatedly to drop the landing gear at the front of the plane — first through its computer system, then manually.
‘They tried hard twice by flying around twice and asked to check whether the nose wheel dropped or not,’ Ye Htut Aung said, calling it a ‘technical fault’.
‘So they had to land with the back wheels… The pilot could land it skillfully,’ he said. ‘There were no casualties.’
Myanmar National Airlines are now sending engineers to Mandalay International Airport to check on the aircraft, Ye Htut Aung said, adding that all jets get a daily flight check.
Passenger Soe Moe said: ‘Smoke came out a little when we landed… All passengers are okay.’
Kyaw San, a spokesman for the airport, said the pilot informed the control tower before landing that he was unable to pull down the nose wheels.
A statement on the airline’s Facebook page explained that the plane’s EICAS – Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System – indicated a failure of the front landing gear to deploy.
Flight operations at the airport were temporarily suspended, and allowed to resume after about two hours for smaller aircraft. The runways were expected to be reopened for use by larger Boeing and Airbus aircraft by late afternoon.
Sunday’s incident comes just days after a Biman Bangladesh Airlines plane crash-landed and slid off a runway while landing in Yangon airport during a storm on Wednesday, leaving 11 passengers injured.
Photos of the plane showed it lying partly on the wet runway and partly on the grass. Its fuselage appeared to be broken in at least two spots.
Myanmar’s monsoon season has caused problems for commercial and military flights in the past.
A military plane crashed into the Andaman sea in 2017 with 122 people on board – one of the deadliest aviation accidents in the country’s history – which authorities attributed to bad weather.
And in 2015, a passenger plane by Air Bagan veered off the runway due to bad weather and heavy rain.