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Can the Airbus A380 or Boeing 787 land safely without flaps/slats/spoilers or thrust reversers?

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yeah they will come in overspeed and need a long runway to get to a stop –  ratchet freak May 23 '14 at 18:54
Will this overspeed and slow braking (to avoid overheating the brakes) cause the tires to overheat and blow? Some tires can overheat on extended taxi durations, and this contemplates a much higher taxi speed. –  Skip Miller May 23 '14 at 19:12
@SkipMiller if you "slow brake to avoid overheat", I would say that the chance of overheating is practically null, unless you are doing something else wrong. –  Federico May 23 '14 at 19:21
For what it's worth, the Boeing 787 is not a "super." Its MTOW is less than even a 777 (all variants), let alone a 747. The 747 is still Boeing's heaviest aircraft. (A modified 747 was even used to carry 787 pieces, like its wings, around.) –  dvnrrs May 23 '14 at 20:13
My apologies, I thought the 787 was a super. –  CGCampbell May 23 '14 at 21:11

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Even the largest commercial airliners are able to land without flaps. See a report here where an A380 landed with no flaps. This was at the Auckland, New Zealand airport, where the runway is 3,635 m (11,926 ft) long.

The pilots have information about what speeds they should fly with what amounts of flaps. They simply land at a higher than normal speed. The brakes can end up getting hotter than normal, so they may have to stop and let them cool or have them inspected by emergency services. The tires are designed to deflate with fusible plugs before high temperatures would cause them to blow.

Aircraft are also tested to make sure they can reject a takeoff at high weights (higher than normal landing weights) using no thrust reversers. Here is a video of the 747-8 doing this test.


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I've never heard about the designed-in tire deflation, is there an article I can read? –  CGCampbell May 23 '14 at 19:52
The general technology at work is fusible plugs. –  fooot May 23 '14 at 19:58
@CGCampbell Check this video out youtube.com/watch?v=qc_v6tXsv6g (same as posted above). At the end of the test they mention and show the deflation of the tires due to heat. –  sandy May 23 '14 at 20:55
PBS had a multivolume video series (4 or 5 tapes) on the design, construction, and testing of the 777. The torture tests of brake overheating caused the fusible plugs to blow, so that fire crews wouldn't be endangered by exploding tires. –  Phil Perry May 23 '14 at 22:34
@PhilPerry I think this clip is from that series, but I liked the newer one better. youtube.com/watch?v=9nA7B-JWt3M –  fooot May 23 '14 at 23:05

Specific information can be difficult to come by, and each airline may have their own guidance on the subject. I wasn't able to find anything for the 787, but for the according to one 777 crew handbook I found, flaps up landing was not part of certification:

All Flaps and Slats Up Landing
The probability of both leading and trailing edge devices failing to extend is extremely remote. System reliability and design have reduced the need for some traditional non-normal landing procedures. As a result, an all flaps up landing NNC was not required for airplane certification and does not appear in the AFM or in the QRH.

Basically this means that a demonstration of a no-flaps landing was not required during certification, so no specific guidance appears in the official handbook, and the manufacturer makes no claim that it can be done safely.

None of the Boeing 787 handbooks I found had official procedures for a flaps-up landing either.

That doesn't mean that it can't be done, but pilots are "on their own" so to speak, and the airplane may not be usable afterward.

But the basic procedure you'd expect them to follow is somewhere along these lines:

  • Attempt to troubleshoot flaps first (best to avoid the problem altogether)
  • Remove excess fuel (either dump or burn)
  • Pick suitable airport considering runway length, altitude, and safety gear (e.g. EMAS)
  • Declare emergency and prepare airport (ready the fire trucks, etc)
  • Approach above no-flaps stall speed and touchdown as close to the start of the runway as possible
  • Engage brakes, spoilers, and thrust-reversers as appropriate
  • ???
  • Profit
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A minor nitpick: Remove the excess fuel (either dump or burn) after picking a suitable airport ;) –  dooburt May 25 '14 at 10:48
@dooburt as long as you're nitpicking, declare an emergency first, otherwise you've got to follow your original fight plan. The order isn't strict. –  tylerl May 25 '14 at 15:03
that was a given - hence the ;) on the end. Written in humour. A comprehensive list nonetheless. +1. –  dooburt Jun 4 '14 at 8:37

Any aircraft can land without those devices. I would say that the Gimli Glider is a nice example, with no power it could not extend its flaps/slats.

They are used, as @ratchetfreak notes in the comments, to reduce the touchdown speed and, as a consequence, the runway length needed to reach a stop or taxiing velocity.

To be noted, also, that a safe landing is mostly defined by the vertical velocity at tochdown, usually in the order of 1-3 feets per second. See for example this accident report where it states

mild touchdown rates [...] less than 5 feet per second

Since the vertical component is the relevant parameter for a safe landing, and given that without flaps/slats the forward velocity will be larger than usual, the aircraft will have to approach with a shallower angle than the usual 3°.

Absence of thrust reversers, as you might imagine, will only affect the braking process.

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The Shuttle Landing Facility's 15,000 foot runway isn't always available... any info on the A380's landing distance without flaps/slats/reversers? Is it indeed feasible on "normal" runways at large airports? –  dvnrrs May 23 '14 at 19:40
@dvnrrs I edited the answer to include a famous example. I have no data for the A380, sadly. –  Federico May 23 '14 at 19:41
Didn't the Gimli Glider get stopped by having its nose gear collapse? –  dvnrrs May 23 '14 at 20:10
@dvnrrs yes, but the touchdown went fine –  Federico May 23 '14 at 20:24

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