Recently I’ve changed up my FlightAware alerts. I’m receiving alerts about more planes, but I’ve cut down on the number of alerts I get for each plane. Crucially, I no longer get alerts when the planes are diverted.

We get one 747 a day here in San Diego, the daily British Airways flight from LHR. It tends to arrive around 5pm, give or take. Thursday evening I checked my phone while I was eating dinner with some knitting friends and I saw that this plane had just filed a flight plan to San Diego roughly around the time when it was usually landing. Super-surprising? Had it been diverted?

A quick check of FlightAware showed that it flew in a circle over the airport, went to LAX, landed, and then flew to SAN.

I listened to the LiveATC archives, and this is what happened over the course of roughly 15 minutes.

  1. Pilot contacted SoCal approach, like normal.

  2. Pilot told SoCal approach that they had a problem and wanted to check it out before landing. Started to circle.

  3. Pilot requested a diversion to LAX due to a problem with a flap. ATC provided directions on how to get to LAX.

  4. Pilot asked for a short cut because they did not have a lot of fuel left.

I am not an aviation expert, but I am wondering about the motivation for requesting the diversion to LAX. There are two possibilites here:

  1. When you have this sort of flap problem, it is safer to land at LAX than at SAN, even if you are using terms like “minimum fuel.”

  2. If a plane has a flap problem, as soon as it lands it will be stuck to the ground until a mechanic can take appropriate action and this action is properly blessed by the correct paperwork. Do we have the right mechanics and parts here in San Diego? Maybe not. If the plane landed here as originally scheduled, would it have been able to fly back to London later that evening?

In unrelated plane-watching news, every Saturday I read more and more about this ridiculous paparazzi-style lens that I want to buy. Since B&H does not do transactions on Saturdays, I am less tempted to actually buy it.