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Passenger recalls faulty British Airways journey from Heathrow to Kenya

By Joe Wright

A passenger has told of the panic on board a Boeing 747 as it repeatedly circled Canterbury at low altitude.

The British Airways flight, which took off from Heathrow late Thursday morning, caused a stir as it toured the skies above the city for almost an hour.

Bound for Nairobi, the plane’s landing gear failed to retract on take-off, meaning it could not continue its 12-hour journey to Kenya.

The low-flying aircraft was seen over Canterbury
The low-flying aircraft was seen over Canterbury

Puzzled onlookers on the ground watched as the faulty plane completed multiple loops around the city, following the same route over Herne Common, Wingham, Waltham and Blean.

British Airways confirmed the plane suffered a “minor technical issue”, but passenger Andrew Dixon, from Tenterden, says it was much more than just a small glitch.

“You can’t say it’s minor when the flight has to be stopped and you circle around for about two hours,” he said.

“I knew something was up as we weren’t getting high enough. There were vibrations and you could tell it was definitely not right.

“An announcement then came over the tannoy for a supervisor to go to the flight deck immediately.

“She came flying past like she was doing the 100-metre sprint - when that happens you do think ‘oh, that’s a bit worrying’.

Andrew Dixon (5755631)
Andrew Dixon (5755631)

“Some people were getting anxious as we didn’t know what was going on. It was a traumatic experience for them.

“We were eventually told what was going on about 15 minutes later.”

After circling Canterbury for some time, passengers endured a prolonged tour of Kent as the BA65 jet headed south west over Ashford.

It made its way to the English Channel, where it could dump fuel safely, before going on to circle Hastings for about 30 minutes.

The pilot then steered north over Tunbridge Wells and back to the airport, where it landed at 1pm.

Due to the aircraft being at a lowly 6,500ft, passengers could see Kent’s landmarks with ease while they circled below the clouds.

BA65's tour of Kent and East Sussex (5691681)
BA65's tour of Kent and East Sussex (5691681)

Mr Dixon, chief executive at the Residential Landlords Association, added: “It was certainly an interesting experience.

“I often get on the flights to Nairobi and they are the oldest planes. It doesn’t surprise me there are issues as it’s a 20-year-old aircraft.”

Upon its premature landing at Heathrow - which made the news in Kenya - the plane was met by three fire engines and police vehicles. It was back in the air four hours later with a different crew.

A spokesman for British Airways apologised to passengers for the delays.

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