Regulators Open Investigation Into American Airlines Flight’s Rough Landing Because Of Wind Shear

Image courtesy of yooperann

Federal regulators will investigate an incident in which an American Airlines flight collided with approach lights at the Charlotte Douglas Airport in North Carolina while attempting to land during a sudden change in wind patterns on Saturday. While dramatic shifts in wind are exceedingly rare when it comes to affecting an aircraft’s landing, it turns out the incident last week is the second in less than two months for the carrier.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Wednesday that it had opened a formal probe into why American Airlines flight 1851 – operated by US Airways – collided with lights before striking and damaging the underside of its tail while landing in North Carolina on Saturday.

Pilots for the flight, which was traveling from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta to Charlotte, reported encountering wind shear – a sudden or dramatic shift in wind often associated with thunderstorms – during its final approach, the Board says.

As the plane came in to land, the bottom of the aircraft scraped against the runway approach lights, before the tail hit the runway.

The pilots quickly aborted the landing, took off again and landed safely on a second attempt, NTSB says. No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.

A look at Flight Aware radar shows the American flight circled the airport before attempting to land a second time, while storm systems can be seen near the airport.

A look at Flight Aware radar shows the American flight circled the airport before attempting to land a second time, while storm systems can be seen near the airport.

Shortly after the plane landed, the cockpit voice recorder and black box were removed for analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration and NTSB. The board says the aircraft was immediately taken out of service after suffering “substantial damage.”

NTSB says its investigation will include an examination of weather conditions at the time of the event, airplane performance, and operational factors.

While incidents such as the one that occurred on Saturday in Charlotte are unusual – as pilots are trained to avoid such wind conditions and enhanced radar has minimized the likelihood of encountering such events – the Wall Street Journal reports it’s the second such occurrence for American Airlines in two months.

On June 26, an American flight approaching Dallas-Fort Worth experienced a close call after also reportedly running into a wind shear (also known as a microburst).

That flight came within dozen of feet of touching down prematurely. The aircraft wasn’t damaged during the incident and no injuries were reported.

[via The Wall Street Journal]