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Computer system suspected in Heathrow 777 crash

Mechanical failure 'unthinkable'

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Experts have suggested that the simultaneous failure of both engines of the BA 777 which last week crash-landed at Heathrow must have been caused by a computer glitch, the Times reports.

BA038 lost power when it was about two miles from the airport's south runway. The pilot glided the aircraft to a belly-flop short of the tarmac, and the 136 passengers and 16 crew escaped without serious injury.

There has been speculation that the incident was provoked by the aircraft striking a flock of geese, but the idea that bird strike could knock out both engines has been dismissed as "unthinkable".

Accordingly, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), has said in its initial report that it would focus on "the range of aircraft systems that could influence engine operation", while examining all possible causes.

The Boeing 777's computer system has in the past caused a few scares. In 2005, it decided to suddenly reduce a Malaysia Airlines aircraft's speed from 270 knots to 158 knots and put it into a 3,000ft climb. The pilot prevented a disasterous stall by turning off the autopilot and pushing the nose down. Over the Atlantic last year, another aircraft was suddenly thrown to the right by the computer, again obliging the pilot to disengage the autopilot. ®

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