MANY Basingstoke residents were treated to an unusual sight on Saturday, January 20, as a Boeing 777 operated by American Airlines circled above the town for more than an hour.

The unexpected event left residents amused and sparked curiosity about the aircraft's prolonged presence in the skies.

American Airlines flight AAL731, en route from London Heathrow to Charlotte, USA, departed at 2.39pm on Saturday.

However, the routine transatlantic journey took an unexpected turn after passing Ireland and entering the Atlantic Ocean.

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The crew decided to make a swift U-turn, choosing to return to Heathrow instead.

In a situation where an emergency occurs shortly after takeoff, and the aircraft needs to land immediately, the weight of the plane may surpass safe landing limits.

To address this, the pilot opted to initiate a fuel dump procedure to reduce the aircraft's weight.

Following the fuel dump, the aircraft entered a series of holding patterns, executing loops above Basingstoke at 8,000 feet for more than an hour.

This manoeuvre served the dual purpose of burning off excess fuel and providing the crew time to coordinate with air traffic control (ATC) for further instructions.

It was later revealed that the aircraft experienced a malfunction in one of its navigation systems, necessitating the unplanned return to Heathrow.

The Boeing 777 finally touched down at London Heathrow at 7.23pm.

All passengers on board the flight were reported to be safe, and they were promptly transferred to an alternative flight at Heathrow Airport.

Basingstoke residents, initially puzzled by the unexpected spectacle in their skies, took to social media platforms to share their observations.

Andre Grandjean, a Basingstoke resident, told the Gazette that he watched the plane perform loops for nearly two hours and expressed his surprise.