What is hydraulic failure in aircraft? Sir Elton John's private jet makes emergency landing after mid-air glitch

Sir Elton John (Image via Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Sir Elton John (Image via Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

On Monday, February 21, Sir Elton John’s private jet was involved in a hydraulic failure while the flight was inbound to New York. The plane had to abort landing twice amidst high winds following the malfunction.

As per reports, the Rocket Man singer was traveling from Farnborough Airport in Hampshire to New York for his performances at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday and Wednesday.

John’s jet was reportedly around 12,000ft over Ireland when the pilots decided to return the flight to attempt an emergency landing. The flight left the airport at approximately 10:20 AM and was reportedly one hour into the journey when the malfunction occurred.

How did Sir Elton John’s private jet malfunction?


The 78-year-old was aboard his $90 million Bombardier Global Express with twin-jet engines, which was en route to New York amidst high winds from Storm Franklin hitting almost 80mph.

While the jet could have a climbing rate of over 1,900 feet per minute, amidst the storm, the flight could have been instructed to maintain a low speed and altitude. Furthermore, as per UK’s Flight Aware, Sir Elton John’s aircraft briefly cruised at an altitude of around 12,000 ft, with about 550+ mph of cruising speed.

Hydraulic failure explained


In bigger private and commercial jets, the hydraulic system is the primary way to handle flight controls in the form of flaps on the wings and rudders on the tail. Thus, in aircrafts without a manual backup for maintaining the flight’s control systems, hydraulics end up being very crucial for cruising optimally.

The failure causes many difficulties in maintaining the tilt and steering of the aircraft. However, it seems that in Sir Elton John’s jet, i.e. the Bombardier Global Express, the failure might not have been so severe. John’s private aircraft reportedly has three isolated hydraulic systems, which maintain around 3000 psi of nominal pressure.

Sir Elton's flight path (Image via FlightAware)
Sir Elton's flight path (Image via FlightAware)

This might explain how the five-time Grammy-winner’s plane was able to perform a U-turn of sorts after the failure. Furthermore, the aircraft went around the airport twice before approaching an optimal landing approach in that scenario. Thus, it is possible that John’s aircraft did not have total hydraulic failure.

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Edited by Abu Amjad Khan
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