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Heathrow Boeing 777 Crash - RF Interference Rumour

Email forward suggests that an accident involving a Boeing 777 at London's Heathrow airport in January 2008 may have been caused by a RF transmitter signal emitted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown's motorcade (Full commentary below).

Unsubstantiated - Idle speculation

Example:(Submitted, March 2008)
Subject: That Boeing crash at Heathrow

A friend sent this concerning the Boeing 777 that crashed short of the runway in London a few weeks ago.

Well, the British aircraft accident investigation board has finally come around to the conclusion that I made several weeks ago: the event was RF-induced.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's motorcade was passing under the approach path of BA038. His security system utilized a RF transmitter to block out any cell-phone triggered devices. Apparently this system has a two mile range, and it caused the Boeing 777 EEC's (electronic engine controls) to sense a "over-boost" situation, thereby commanding a reduced-thrust situation for the engines, simultaneously. Most interesting.

We'll see how Boeing and the BAA handle this one. This could be potentially bad, in view of the simplicity of technology that the bad guys could use to bring down an airliner.

According to this rapidly circulating rumour, the crash landing of a Boeing 777 at London's Heathrow airport in January 2008 may have been caused by RF interference from Prime Minister Gordon Brown's motorcade. The message claims that the motorcade passed under the 777's flightpath just prior to the incident. It is suggested that a RF transmitter used by the motorcade's security system to block "cell-phone triggered devices" may have interfered with the plane's electronic engine controls.

However, the claims in the message are pure speculation and have not been confirmed by any reliable reports.

The accident itself is real. An initial report into the incident published by the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) notes:
Following an uneventful flight from Beijing, China, the aircraft was established on an ILS approach to Runway 27L at London Heathrow. Initially the approach progressed normally, with the Autopilot and Autothrottle engaged, until the aircraft was at a height of approximately 600 ft and 2 miles from touch down. The aircraft then descended rapidly and struck the ground, some 1,000 ft short of the paved runway surface, just inside the airfield boundary fence. The aircraft stopped on the very beginning of the paved surface of Runway 27L. During the short ground roll the right main landing gear separated from the wing and the left main landing gear was pushed up through the wing root. A significant amount of fuel leaked from the aircraft but there was no fire. An emergency evacuation via the slides was supervised by the cabin crew and all occupants left the aircraft, some receiving minor injuries.
Moreover, news reports indicate that Prime Minister Brown was indeed at Heathrow when the accident occurred.

© Ermel

Boeing 777
Claims that the January crash landing of a Boeing 777 at Heathrow was caused by RF interference from the Prime Minister's motorcade is no more than idle speculation
He was already on another plane waiting to take off for a trip to China. The Prime Minister's plane was delayed for a time because all available emergency crews were responding to the Boeing 777 incident. However, the exact location of the Prime Minister's motorcade when the incident occurred or if a RF transmitter was actually being utilized at the time is, again, pure speculation.

The message claims that the AAIB has "finally come around to the conclusion" that the accident was RF related. However, I could find no reports that back up this claim in any way. At the time of writing, the AAIB was still investigating the incident. A special bulletin about the incident published by the AAIB in February 2008 makes no mention of RF interference as a possible cause. During the investigation thus far, special attention has been paid to problems with the aircraft's fuel systems as a possible cause of the accident.

The rumour may have originated from comments made to the media by one Nina Anderson, science-fiction novelist and author of "Worse Than Global Warming Wave Technology". The book warns of impending disaster in December 2012 due to proliferation of electromagnetic technology and postulates that similar circumstances may have caused the downfall of ancient civilizations, including the mythical Atlantis. Anderson has urged investigators to examine the possibility that electromagnetic wave interference was responsible for the Heathrow incident. However, Anderson is not part of the investigation team and her comments are based on her somewhat controversial personal opinions rather than on any real evidence associated with the incident.

Until the AAIB finishes its investigation, it would be premature to conclusively dismiss possible causes of the accident - even a cause as unlikely as RF interference from the Prime Minister's motorcade. That said, however, circulating baseless rumours and idle speculation in the guise of fact will serve no good purpose.

Accident to Boeing 777-236, G-YMMM at London Heathrow Airport on 17 January 2008 - Initial Report
UK PM's Flight Delayed by Plane Incident
AAIB Bulletin S1/2008 SPECIAL
Wireless technology theory to BA crash
Worse Than Global Warming: Wave Technology
Did Wi-Fi interference cause Boeing 777 crash?

Last updated: 19th March 2008
First published: 19th March 2008

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen