A very serious problem with a Virgin Blue Embraer E-170 jet at Melbourne Airport on Sunday night is being investigated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

The 78 seat jet had left Sydney at 7.34pm and was only minutes from touch down some 22 kilometres from Tullamarine when the pilots reported difficulties controlling the aircraft.

They then made a faster than usual landing without using the wing flaps to slow the jet.

The problem in technical terms was a malfunctioning inboard slat actuator torque limiter. Translation: this made the jet fly crooked.

The pilots decided it was better to make a safe, if unusual, landing without the flaps rather than continue to troubleshoot the problem.

This ‘straight but quick’ approach resulted in the flight actually landing a few minutes sooner than scheduled.

Virgin Blue says it will make a statement today.

The investigation will review the maintenance and service history of the Brazilian made jet.

Neither the airline nor the ATSB have yet confirmed the extent of the sudden control problems experienced by the Virgin Blue flight.

Peter Fray

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