A British Airways jet collapsed on its nose at Heathrow Airport after a mechanic was too short to lock its landing gear into place, an Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report has revealed.

The lead mechanic was tasked with securing the nose landing gear of the Boeing 787-8 in the down position before a planned flight to Germany last month.

But according to the report, he was “not tall enough” to reach a pin needed to lock landing gear, so asked a taller colleague to perform the task. However, the second mechanic ended up putting the pin in the wrong recess.

The error meant the nose landing gear suddenly retracted into the flying position when the hydraulics were tested by an engineer on the flight deck.

It caused the aircraft to smash down to the ground as it was being prepared for a flight to Frankfurt, causing extensive damage to the lower nose, the landing gear doors and engine cowlings.

A cargo loader who was on the ground beside the aircraft and the co-pilot on the flight deck received minor injuries, the report stated.

The correct (left) and incorrect position (right) for the nose gear locking pin on the British Airways jet

Credit: AAIB/East Anglia News Service

It added that the lead mechanic had successfully used a set of portable steps to install the four locking pins for the main landing gear of the aircraft.

The successful installation meant that the main landing gear did not retract when the hydraulics were tested and only the nose of the aircraft was affected.

Hundreds of passengers witnessed the incident which took place just before 7am on June 18.

Investigators found that the nose landing gear locking pin had been put accidentally in a recess called the apex pin inner bore instead of the right hole which was adjacent to it.

An identical error was made on another Boeing 787 in 2018, causing its nose to collapse on the tarmac.

The Federal Aviation Administration stated in January last year that the work should be done on all relevant Boeing jets within three years. But the report found that the work had not yet been done on the British Airways aircraft involved in the accident at the time.

It added that British Airways was now planning to “expedite the incorporation” of the recommended safety improvement to its fleet.

The airline added in a statement: “Safety is always our highest priority and we are working closely with the AAIB on the continuing investigation.”