Investigators are probing an incident aboard a Delta Air Lines jet from Prague in the Czech Republic to New York JFK in which the autopilot repeatedly disconnected, forcing the pilots to declare an emergency and nearly diverting to Gander International Airport in Newfoundland.
But while the incident occurred back on July 7, 2022, the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has only now confirmed that it is investigating exactly what happened onboard Delta flight DL-211.
Although no conclusions have been drawn about what caused the flight controls to stop working properly onboard the 30-year-old Boeing 767 aircraft, there is the possibility that flooded lavatories in the cabin could have contributed to the problems faced by the pilots.
According to a report filed by the AV Herald, the aircraft had just reached the southern tip of Greenland en route to New York JFK when flight attendants reported that the toilets in the mid-cabin area had started to flood.
A short time later, the flooding started to affect one of the forward lavatories as well.
With several toilets now out of action due to continuing flooding issues, the autopilot unexpectedly disconnected, and the aircraft reportedly “started to drift to the right”.
The aircraft in question has three autopilot systems, and the pilots were unable to engage any of these systems without them disconnecting themselves a short time later, according to the AV Herald report.
Worryingly, correcting the right-hand drift was proving difficult, so the pilots declared an emergency while on the phone to an engineering team who attempted to troubleshoot the issue.
The pilots first considered diverting to Gander and then, once flight control systems seemed to correct themselves, set course for a possible diversion to Boston. In the end, the pilots were able to land at New York JFK as originally planned.
It remains a possibility that water from the flooded toilets could have interfered with crucial electronics and wiring deep inside the aircraft and this will be a theory that investigators look into.
The NTSB confirmed on Friday that it was probing the incident. The agency reported that none of the 221 passengers or 12 crew members were injured.
In a statement, a Delta spokesperson told us: “Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people. Delta is fully assisting aviation authorities in the review of flight 211 from Prague to New York-JFK in July of 2022, which landed safely at its destination following a mechanical issue.”
The aircraft involved in the incident (registration: N181DN) continues to fly regularly for the airline.
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.