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In an unusual incident, the crew of a Lufthansa 747 decided to divert because of a problem that was affecting the aircraft’s lavatories!

We often discuss redundancy in aircraft systems – and generally speaking, this is for safety matters. But sometimes, issues arise when there are problems even with systems that aren’t critical for the operation of the aircraft itself. And this is especially true in the case of long, ocean-crossing flights, potentially with many hundreds of people on board. Such was the case with this incident, involving a Lufthansa Boeing 747.

Photo: Ivan Mihajlovic

The aircraft and its crew would fly from Chicago O’Hare International (KORD) in the United States to Frankfurt Airport (EDDF) in Germany. This was flight LH-431, a daily service that normally leaves Chicago at four in the afternoon. In recent days, Lufthansa has consistently used a 747-8 for this and the outbound leg to Chicago.

We don’t know how many people were on board this Lufthansa 747, during the incident flight. This particular 747-8 has seats for 364 passengers. But according to passengers on board, the flight’s Captain had warned them of “minor issues” with the lavatories. It appears that these minor issues got progressively worse.

INCIDENT: Lufthansa 747 Diverts Due To Toilet Issues!

The incident aircraft. Photo: Kambui, CC BY 2.0

 

Lufthansa 747 – The Incident Flight

The flight left Chicago with a forty-five-minute delay. Just under two hours later, the incident flight was at FL370, over Quebec, when the Lufthansa crew decided to turn around. It appears that at this point in the flight, only two lavatories in the entire plane remained operational. Additionally, passengers reported other minor issues, with flickering lights and malfunctioning in-flight entertainment systems.

INCIDENT: Lufthansa 747 Diverts Due To Toilet Issues!

D-ABYR in storage, in 2020. Photo: TJDarmstadt, CC BY 2.0

Also, some passengers using business or first-class seats couldn’t return them to their upright position electrically. The cabin crew had to operate these seats manually, to prepare the cabin for landing. This suggests that the incident related to broader electrical problems with this Lufthansa 747.

The Lufthansa flight crew made an uneventful landing in Chicago, approximately two and a half hours after turning back. Less than a day after the incident, Lufthansa flew the 747 back to Frankfurt. The flight number (LH-9871) suggests that this was a positioning flight, i.e. without passengers. Then on the 22nd of April, the airline used the aircraft for another revenue flight – to Buenos Aires (SAEZ), Argentina.

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The incident aircraft is a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8, with registration D-ABYR. It is just under seven-and-a-half years old, with Lufthansa being its only operator. The airline has named it “Bremen”. Previously, Lufthansa used the same registration for a 747-200, named “Nordrhein-Westfalen”. Lufthansa retired this jet in 2002.

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