Dutch flag-carrier KLM operated a six-hour flight to nowhere on Sunday after a technical issue forced the pilots to return mid-flight to the exact same airport they had taken off from hours before.
KLM flight KL515 departed Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at around 10:17 am on Sunday morning bound for Zanzibar, Tanzania in East Africa but ended up landing back in Amsterdam around 5 hours and 50 minutes after departure.
According to the Aviation Herald, the KLM operated Boeing 777 had suffered a bird strike shortly after takeoff but the pilots didn’t believe there was a problem so initially continued with the flight. It was only around halfway into the eight-hour flight that they decided to do an about-turn and return to Amsterdam.
It’s not immediately clear why it took the pilots so long to make the decision to divert but it likely stems from the fact that there are limited maintenance facilities in Zanzibar. If there had been a significant maintenance issue, the plane could have been stuck in Tanzania while KLM flew spare parts and technicians to the site.
Once on the ground, workers found a large dent on the side of the left-hand engine where a bird had struck the plane.
A KLM registered Boeing 777-300 in a distinctive orange-themed livery was stranded in Beijing for weeks after technical problems necessiated an engine replacement. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, KLM’s own engineers couldn’t fly out to China to replace the engine.
This six-hour ‘flight to nowhere’ doesn’t, however, match a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Rio de Janeiro in December 2020 that was forced to return to Amsterdam around four and a half hours into the flight because of a cracked windshield.
The flight landed back at Schiphol Airport just over nine hours after takeoff and within hours the passengers had been put on a replacement jet to attempt the flight all over again. The flight eventually landed in Brazil just over 14-hours late.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.