Last Night An American Flight Circled for 3 Hours After Discovering Problems With Flaps

Last night American Airlines flight AA730 from Charlotte to London discovered problems with its flaps shortly after takeoff. There were 258 passengers and 16 crew onboard.

  • About 35 minutes into the flight the aircraft turned around over southern Virginia.

  • An hour and 10 minutes into the flight it began to circle.

  • Three hours later it came in to land back in Charlotte.

FlightRadar24, sped up but bear in mind that 10 seconds in you may get dizzy:

The Airbus A330-200 has an aircraft option to allow for dumping fuel, I don’t think it’s an option on the 16 year old A330-300 which operated this flight. However an A330 is capable of landing after carrying out an ‘overweight landing’ checklist. It doesn’t have to get down to or below maximum landing weight in the event of an emergency. Dumping fuel rather than landing overweight is going to prevent more costly maintenance inspections.

In fact that the aircraft was circling for three hours is an indication the condition wasn’t as serious as it might have been. Nonetheless, any irregularity can be frightening as a passenger. Last year when my American Airlines Dallas – San Francisco flight returned to Dallas after experiencing a bird strike on climb out passengers held their breath until we reached the ground.

Nonetheless at least one passenger onboard reported that others didn’t seem nervous.

On arrival in Charlotte emergency vehicles responded as a precaution.

(HT: Ken A.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A little off topic but unless it is a life threatening emergency requiring landing asap fuel dumping should be strictly prohibited.

    Saving money is not a good excuse to spray fuel.

  2. @Golfingvoy:

    Genuinely why you think it should be prohibited. If at altitude, doesn’t the fuel just kind of dissipate in the air? What’s the general harm in it?

  3. There’s nothing wrong with dumping fuel as fuel evaporates rapidly in the air. If you are concerned about the environment, the fuel would have been either BURNED or DUMPED so no difference.

    While not surprising, American Airlines believes that the 3 hours of each passengers time (or 774 man-hours) has no value to American Airlines while a “costly maintenance inspection” is unacceptable. More evidence that US airlines don’t care about their passengers time. We need passengers rights legislation with teeth.

  4. They should have taken a chance and landed with full tanks. We worry too much about individual lives in this country. A lot of those people will die soon by attacks, cancers, gun violence and drugs. Wasting so much fuel is not fair to the environment.

  5. Had this been a real emergency they would have dumped pax from Basic Cconomy and their checked baggage

  6. @Credit

    You’re clearly a troll, attempting to be sarcastic or funny and you are neither. Get a life.

  7. Yes, the fuel “evaporates” into the atmosphere, so it doesn’t exactly disappear but instead soaks up into the atmosphere (and that is not a good thing). Since those occurrences are so not very common the overall impact is minimal in the grand scheme of things, but does not mean we should let airlines make this a SOP to save money when burning off fuel is a viable option – only as a last resort.

    Although the argument for fuel dumping is that flying the plane pollutes the environment to begin with that the difference in impact is not huge. However, when a plane enters holding pattern they typically fly at a much lower altitude and there have been reports that fuel droppings unexpectedly makes it to the ground (FedEx at MEM, Asiana in Puget Sound, etc.) where the environment damage is much worse.

    From a pilot “A: The fuel evaporates, and when dumping is necessary it is normally done over an area of little population or over water. It is never desirable to eject these substances into the environment, but it is rare to have an airplane dump fuel.”

    Fuel dumping should only be used if lives are at stake and time is of the essence, otherwise burn fuel and land the plane once it reaches MLW. Airlines have been good about this though.

  8. @rjb

    Burned fuel becomes carbon. Dumped fuel is fuel.

    Both bad for the environment indeed but one is clearly worst than the other. The airlines know that so this absolutely has nothing to do with your valuable time.

    And you seem to imply costly maintenance is unacceptable shows that you have no idea of the serious ramifications of landing overweight.

  9. @rjb

    For DOT passenger value of time (PVT) calculations, that time would have an estimated value of a little over $20k.

    And what do you mean *believes*? Passengers’ wasted time has little cost to American, just like a busted airplane has little cost to the passenger.

  10. @Credit: I think you’re funny. That makes at least 2.

    Besides, I am sick of people using the word “troll”

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