A Halloween flight to remember for all the wrong reasons ! On October 31st, a Thomas Cook Boeing 757-300, registration G-JMAB on flight MT-1638 from London Gatwick,EN (UK) to Hurghada (Egypt) with 237 people on board, reached cruise level 330 about 200nm east of Gatwick Airport and south south east of Brussels (Belgium) when the crew received an abnormal indication, decided to burn off fuel and return to Gatwick Airport.
On approach to the airport the aircraft dropped one of the over wing emergency escape slides. The aircraft landed safely back in Gatwick about 2 hours after departure.
The airline reported the crew received indication of a fault with the over wing escape slide and decided to return to Gatwick. The slide separated from the aircraft somewhere along the flight.
Kent Police reported the object is believed to have fallen down between Langton Green and Groombridge, about 15nm east of Gatwick Airport, about 5 to 10 minutes prior to the aircraft landing back in Gatwick.
A passenger reported that shortly after the top of climb (aircraft levelled off after having reached cruise flight) the captain announced a technical fault requiring them to return to Gatwick. The aircraft burned off fuel for about 1.5 hours over the Gatwick and Brighton area.
While on following approach to Gatwick Airport, a very loud thump sound occurred and something believed to be a panel separated from the aircraft, probably hitting the fuselage and or tailplane. The aircraft touched down safely, stopped at the end of the runway and shut both engines down for an inspection by emergency services.
The AAIB have opened an investigation.
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