WATCH: FedEx 757 Lands Without Landing Gear in Tennessee

Charlie Mortling

Los Angeles, CA

Last updated on Oct 6, 2023

Posted on Oct 6, 2023

If you haven't caught it by now FedEx had quite the incident on October 4th. A 757 freighter scheduled from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Memphis, Tennessee had a hydraulic problem after takeoff, the crew elected to return to the airport however their landing gear could not deploy. This resulted in a gear up landing, which subsequently overran the runway and stopped safely in a grassy area.

All in all it was a textbook emergency landing and nobody was injured.

Video of a FedEx 757 making a belly landing at Chattanooga (From Hamilton County EMs' Facebook page)
by u/ZGWX in aviation

N977FD's History

Demo Borstell/Planespotters.net

the 757-200 fitted with RB211 engines under registration N977FD has quite the past, the nearly 40 year old airplane started life with Air Europa in 1988 and has since flown all over Europe and even had a short stint in South America with Avianca. FedEx acquired the airplane in 2015 after converting it to a freighter and has been with the airline since.

Being such an old airline does not affect its airworthiness. If properly maintained the 757 will continue to fly for years to come. FedEx loves these airplanes for their powerful engines, great cargo carrying weight, and they can pretty much fly into any airport and get out with a decent cargo load.

As commercial airplanes get older and replaced by newer and better airplanes they will find a second life as cargo transport airplanes where they will continue to live for years. FedEx even tricks out their 757s with an infrared landing assist systems so they can land in practically no visibility.

What happened?

There will obviously be a full FAA investigation and the cause of the incident will be determined by the NTSB, an independent government body charged with investigating safety incidents and making recommendations. In the coming days we will see what they come up with.

Initial reports suggest there was a hydraulic failure which affected the landing gear and the manual extension failed to work resulting in a gear up landing.

The FAA only offered a brief statement:

AIRCRAFT EXPERIENCED A LANDING GEAR ANOMALY, RETURNED TO AIRPORT AND LANDED GEAR UP, CHATTANOOGA, TN.

Pilot made multiple approaches

Reviewing fly tracking data it looks like the 757 had the failure shortly after takeoff and then proceeded to fly around the airspace for awhile and then made a few approaches, probably for the local tower to check if the manual gear extension worked.

I don't suspect they would have flown around to burn fuel as the flight was so short they wouldn't have been loaded up on fuel. This also probably contributed to the relatively good shape the airplane landed in as all the fuel would be in the wings so there was nothing in the belly to catch fire.

Great work by the pilots

In times like these it is easy to focus on the crashed airplane and the pictures and videos circulating around. Most people will obsess with the why of the whole situation but we forget about the who.

The pilots of this flight deserve the upmost congratulations for their quick reactions and safely landing an airplane without gear. It would take incredible control to keep an airplane on a runway without landing gear and would have been quite the challenge as the airplane slowed down to keep control. At some point all control would be out of their hands and if the pilot set it up right, it would come to rest without additional damage.

Final Thoughts

It's amazing in this day and age that we can have a major aircraft incident and everyone makes it out alive. FedEx had no casualties from this incident, Delta which landed with their gear on fire a few weeks ago also had no injuries as they had to evacuate the airplane, a Russian airplane which landed in a field after running out of fuel also had no injuries.

It's incredible and just goes to show how safe flying is, not to mention the intense training pilots go through. This will be a story that I follow just for the curiosity of finding out what failed on the airplane.

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