Loss of separation between Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 and a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 above London


On 23 October, two aircraft with destination London Heathrow have gotten closer together than they should have done: a Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 (9M-MAG) from Kuala Lumpur as MH4 and a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (G-VOWS) from Shanghai as VS251. The British Civil Aviation Authority confirmed to Aviation24.be to have received a report of a loss of separation over London. An investigation has been launched into the incident.

At 15:51 (UTC), the Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 performed a go-around on Heathrow’s runway 27R. After making a right turn during the go-around procedure, the Airbus made another right turn.

At the same time, the Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was approaching runway 27R at 4,000 feet.


Position of Malaysia Airlines and Virgin Atlantic at 15:57


Immediately after, the Virgin Atlantic Dreamliner aborted its approach and turned left for another approach and a landing at 16:08, just before turning the separation between both aircraft was 200 ft vertically and 2+ nautical miles apart. The Malaysia Airlines Airbus made a few turns and safely landed a few minutes after.


Aircraft should be kept 1,000 feet or 300 metres apart vertically. Horizontally, if aircraft are following the same path – or track – they should be 15 nautical miles apart. Under other circumstances, planes should be at least five nautical miles apart, a distance allowed to drop to three when the aircraft enters the jurisdiction of an airport’s tower controller; on final approaches into airports (within 10 nautical miles) this is allowed to drop to 2.5.


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