Delta Flight to Detroit Diverts to Amsterdam on Flaps

A Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) wide-body jet bound for Detroit landed safely at the Amsterdam airport after being diverted there because its wing flaps wouldn’t retract following its departure from Paris.

Flight 99, a twin-engine Airbus SAS A330 jet carrying 309 passengers and crew, touched down about 4:15 p.m. local time at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Anthony Black, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Delta, said today by e-mail. Video by Amsterdam television station AT5 showed the jet landed without incident.

Passengers are being rebooked on a flight leaving Amsterdam at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Black said. While maintenance workers were able to repair the aircraft, crew members reached their work-hour limits and today’s trip had to be canceled, he said.

Flaps that won’t retract keep a plane from reaching its usual airspeed. They are extended from the back edge of the wing in different configurations during takeoff and landing, expanding the lifting surface and allowing a plane to maneuver at slower speeds. The tradeoff is that they increase drag.

“The airplane, any airplane, with flaps down could not make it across the North Atlantic,” said Les Westbrooks, a former commercial and military pilot who teaches airline operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. “They had to land.”

Photographer: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg

A logo sits on a sign outside the Airbus SAS wing assembly factory in Broughton, U.K. Close

A logo sits on a sign outside the Airbus SAS wing assembly factory in Broughton, U.K.

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Photographer: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg

A logo sits on a sign outside the Airbus SAS wing assembly factory in Broughton, U.K.

Speed Limit

The A330’s maximum cruise speed is about 547 miles (880 kilometers) per hour, according to industry website Airliners.net. That’s more than twice the top speed when flying with the flaps lowered for takeoff or landing, ruling out a trans-Atlantic flight spanning more than 3,900 miles.

Planes have safety systems that block flaps from retracting completely if one isn’t moving up in sync with the other, Westbrooks said in a telephone interview.

The Dutch television video showed that the flaps on the right wing of Flight 99 were in a downward position, while the view of the left wing was obscured by the fuselage. Three firetrucks were nearby as a precaution, AT5 said. Schiphol airport is a Delta hub.

Flap malfunctions aren’t common, said G.W. “Bo” Corby, a former commercial pilot who now works with Future & Active Pilot Advisors, a career and financial-planning website.

“The flaps are a complicated system with a lot of moving parts, and on occasion for any number of reasons you may have a malfunction” including computer problems, Corby said by phone. “The response of the computer may be to lock them out so they don’t go anywhere and put the airplane in a compromised position.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net; Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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