This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
At 12:42 GMT on 17 January 2008 a British Airways Boeing 777-200 aircraft, registration G-YMMM, landed 330m short of Runway 27L at London Heathrow Airport.
The aircraft was operating as flight BA38 from Beijing to London and the flight operated uneventfully until its approach to Heathrow.
On its approach, the right engine ceased to respond to auto-throttle commands for increased power and instead the power reduced. Seven seconds later the left engine power reduced. This led to a loss of airspeed and the aircraft came close to stalling. It landed short of the runway, just 110m inside of the perimeter fence of Heathrow.
All 16 crew members and 136 passengers on board the aircraft survived the incident. However, one passenger sustained a serious injury due to the landing gear penetrating the aircraft fuselage. The aircraft sustained considerable damage with its nose landing gear and main landing gears collapsing. The aircraft was considered damaged beyond economic repair and was written off.
An investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the Department for Transport found that ice had accreted within the fuel system of the aircraft causing a restriction to the flow of fuel to both engines. The ice had formed from water that had occurred naturally in the fuel. The investigation found that the aircraft was compliant with its certification requirements and these did not take account of this phenomenon.
All 16 crew members received the BA safety medal for their performance during the incident, which is BA’s highest honour.