BA038 crash landing investigation update

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has recently published a Special Bulletin (that is available here) dealing with the BA038 incident at London Heathrow. Even if the investigation is still underway, the bulletin is particularly interesting since it indicates that there were no anomalies in the major aircraft systems and these were not affected by any failure that can be considered as the accident’s root cause. According to the study, both the autopilot and the autothrottle worked as expected and the engine control systems provided the correct inputs to the engine before the reduction o thrust was experienced by the crew. Even fuel contamination was discarded. However, the investigation surfaced signs of abnormal cavitation in both engines’ high pressure fuel pumps, even if the manufacturer declared that, despite cavitation, both were still able to ensure full fuel flow delivery.
Interestingly, the bulletin contains a Safety Recommendation (that was accepted by Boeing) to notify to the 777 operators that have not incorporated the Boeing Service Bulletin 777-28-0025 yet, the need to change the fire and evacuation checklists according to a procedure that requires to activate the fuel control switch to cut-off prior to operation of the fire handle in strict sequencing. In fact, the investingation discovered that after the crash landing of the G-YMMM, the engine fuel spar shut-off valves (that are designed to cut off the fuel flow to the engine when needed) were in an OPEN position because of a wiring arrangement and lead to a fuel leakage that could have had distrastrous consequences in case of fire.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. The most popular and visceral opinion is (water contamination)
    In the old days, fuel tanks were drained daily to remove water
    How many days prior to the BA038 Heathrow crash were the tanks drained ?

  2. Has there been any information to substantiate a possible RF interference transmitted from a government vehicle with a cell phone interrupting security device?

  3. According to the report: “Initial results confirm that the fuel conforms to Jet A-1 specifications and that there were no signs of contamination or unusual levels of water content. A sump sample taken from the left and right main fuel tanks shortly after the accident revealed no significant quantities of water”.
    Furthermore, the fuel tanks were last checked for water in the fuel on the 15 January 2008 at Heathrow, prior to its refuelling for the outboard sector to Beijing.

    Dealing with the RF interference, the reports don’t say anything in particular: “The autopilot and the autothrottle systems behaved correctly and the engine control systems were providing the correct commands prior to, during, and after, the reduction in thrust”. No interferences discovered (so far, at least).

  4. A friend sent this concerning the Boeing 777 that crashed short of the runway in London

    Well, the British aircraft accident investigation board has finally come around to the conclusion that I made several weeks ago: the event was RF-induced.

    Prime Minister Dr. Gordon Brown’s motorcade was passing under the approach path of BA038. His security system utilised a RF transmitter to block out any cell-phone triggered devices. Apparently this system has a two mile range, and it caused the Boeing 777 EEC’s (electronic engine controls) to sense a “overboost” situation, thereby commanding a reduced-thrust situation for the engines, simultaneously. Most interesting.

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