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Large ice shard plunges to earth from aeroplane on approach to City Airport

PUBLISHED: 15:00 06 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:13 06 April 2016

The ice sheared off of a plane making its final approach to land at City Airport in east London. Picture: PA/Yui Mok

The ice sheared off of a plane making its final approach to land at City Airport in east London. Picture: PA/Yui Mok

Press Association Images

Investigation report reveals a large bang was heard before flight lost radio contact in busy air space over London

A general view of London City Airport in NewhamA general view of London City Airport in Newham

A large chunk of ice fell from an aeroplane on approach to City Airport knocking out cockpit communications onboard the flight.

Cabin crew reported hearing a “large bang” and vibration as the frozen shard plummeted to earth and damaged a radio antenna as it sheared away from the plane.

Logs show the aeroplane lost radio contact for a short period and the crew “were reluctant to continue into busy airspace with a comms problem”.

An incident report, obtained by the Recorder through a Freedom of Information request, said: “A large bang was heard and vibration stopped.

“Cabin crew called on interphone, she confirmed the noise saying it sounded like the noise you hear during ice shedding.”

But radio communication was quickly restored and the flight continued its descent into City Airport and landed safely.

Human error was found to be the cause of the leak that led to the ice drop from a plane approaching City AirportHuman error was found to be the cause of the leak that led to the ice drop from a plane approaching City Airport

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigated the incident and found human error was the cause.

“On landing the ground crew informed us of a fluid leak near the nose area,” the report said.

“The water flap was opened and the filler cap was found to be off. The leaking water was also suspected to have frozen, then broken off damaging the comm radio antenna.”

Ground handlers at the departure airport, which is not named, were briefed on how to fit the water cap correctly and the investigation into the ice drop, which happened on March 10 last year, was closed.

Investigators described the damage to the plane’s antenna as “superficial” and the tech problem as “minor”.

Blocks of ice falling from planes are not as rare as some may think.

Holes in the roof and shattered windscreens: Other reported ice falls in LondonHoles in the roof and shattered windscreens: Other reported ice falls in London

Data shows 84 ice falls were reported to the CAA from 2011 to 2015 and 21 of these were in London.

One report describes a lump of ice crashing through the roof of a house in Stratford and landing in a first floor bathroom in January 2013.

But a CAA spokesman debunked the myth that aeroplanes are able to dump water or sewage mid-flight, saying ice falls are uncommon and always accidental.

“Usually ice just breaks off an aircraft because it’s formed underneath on the fuselage or the wings,” said the spokesman.

“The instances are quite rare. We only get reports of about 30 a year and not all of these can be attributed to aircraft.

“In terms of those that are determined to be caused by aircraft, the most common explanation is some kind of leak when the aircraft takes on water as it’s being refuelled and prepared for take-off.”

Other ice falls reported to the Civil Aviation Authority

- The windscreen of a parked car in Romford was found shattered and a small piece of ice nearby in May 2011. The bonnet was also covered in a reddish-coloured liquid.

- Ice pierced the roof of a house and plummeted into a child’s bedroom in Golders Green, in November 2013. No one was injured.

- A garden pagoda in Hornchurch was damaged by a lump of ice measuring 2 to 3ft in diameter in March 2011.

- A large block of ice landed on a school playing field in Eel Brook Common, Fulham, in February 2013 while children were playing. One suffered minor injuries.

- An ice ball coloured rust brown and white “with a mild odour of cheese” fell through the roof of a conservatory in Dorking, Surrey, in March 2013.


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