American Airlines Scrapping Plane Involved In JFK “Incident”

Filed Under: American

Over the summer we learned that an American Airlines plane involved in an April 2019 incident will never fly again, and there’s now an interesting update to that, as we’re seeing what’s involved in the scrapping of this plane.

What happened to this American Airlines A321?

On April 10, 2019, a pretty terrifying incident happened on American Airlines flight AA300 from New York to Los Angeles. The flight was operated by an Airbus A321 that was built in 2014, with the registration code N114NN.

Long story short, the plane “rolled” to the left as it took off, causing the left wing to hit something during takeoff. However, the pilots didn’t realize it for quite a while — as the plane passed through 20,000 feet, the pilots informed air traffic control of their intention to return to the airport.

As the pilots described it to the controller, the plane “had a strong roll to the left,” and the plane was fine but they just wanted to “return to Kennedy to have them check it out.” In the meantime the crew informed passengers that they were returning to the airport because there was a computer malfunction.

If you want to hear the air traffic control audio of the incident, you can do so here:

This Airbus A321 will be scrapped

In July @xJonNYC reported that the American A321 involved in this incident will never fly again. We learned that some of the plane parts will be removed and reused, while the rest of the plane will be scrapped.

In late 2019 American Airlines had confirmed to me that the NTSB was still investigating the incident, and that the intent was for the plane to eventually return to service, so clearly this represented a change in direction.

The interesting update here (also via @xJonNYC) is that there are now pictures of the A321T having a lot of parts removed, from personal televisions to engines. Boy, what a sad sight to see…

American has been tight-lipped about this incident, so it’s unknown how exactly the decision to scrap the plane came about, or what was determined:

  • Did it take nearly 15 months to come to the conclusion that the plane couldn’t be repaired economically?
  • Did coronavirus play a part in the decision to just scrap the plane, since American is retiring many planes anyway?

One thing is for sure — clearly this incident was much more serious than many people had assumed at the time.

This is quite a contrast to the Delta 757 that had a very rough landing in the Azores in August 2019. Due to the amount of damage to the fuselage, many speculated that the plane would never fly again. However, the plane was able to be ferried back to the US just over a month after the incident, and by December 2019 it was back in service.


The fuselage of a Delta 757 was seriously damaged

Bottom line

In April 2019 an American Airlines Airbus A321 had an incident departing JFK, whereby the plane banked left during takeoff, and struck something. The plane returned to JFK, and initially it seemed like this wasn’t a huge deal.

However, that wasn’t the case. The plane has been out of service since the incident, and will be scrapped. There are now even pictures of various parts of the plane being reused, and it can’t help but make me sad to see such a beautiful plane in this condition.

Unfortunately we haven’t learned many other details about what exactly happened to cause this incident.

Are you surprised to see American Airlines scrapping this plane?

Comments
  1. @Gene

    You’re not going to tell them really what happened. Think of the panic that would ensue. Is it scary? Duh. But realistically telling passengers “We hit something on the wing” is a masterclass in mass hysteria.

  2. @Gene, what a dumb comment. If you were a passenger on that plane, (or any with the need to return to the airport) would you have rather the pilot say “hey folks, we hit something on takeoff when the plane rolled to one side and so we’re going back”?

  3. @ shoeguy — So, returning to Kennedy just to “check it out” is supposed to reassure passengers? If the issue was so benign, why not just continue to the final destination? My comment was not dumb, but insulting me is.

  4. @Geneis completely right on this. Even if you don’t hand passengers the whole story, you don’t lie to them.

  5. From the cockpit, they might have actually had a warning from the computer that didn’t make sense with the control of the aircraft. Until after landing, they may not have noticed the strike until after they landed.

    I am going out on a limb that the damage was less structural and more system related that would cost more to fix (aka, new computer verse new flap).

  6. Yes Gene, Your Comment was Stupid and if You cannot handle the criticism or get easily Offended TFB! The Pilots will never disclose All the Details of an Emergency any more than Police,Fire or Hospital Personnel would tell You about a Crisis or developing situation. Too Many Arm chair Quarterbacks, Know it Alls that KNOW NOTHING and People that Interfere and want to Take Selfies or Act like a Reporter on The Scene. (There is a Reason they With hold Information….it is because of People Like You !). Don’t like It….Live in Your Bubble.

  7. @Gene is right. The communication should be honest but doesn’t have to be complete. Say “out of an abundance of caution we are returning” rather than making up a reason.

  8. I can’t believe there are people on here saying that the pilots should have told the passengers the full truth. People: no way should the pilot have told the passengers that they “hit something.” A computer malfunction was the perfect response. Telling them they hit something would have been a complete disaster onboard.

  9. @ roger — I did not say anything about disclosing full details. I simply said that hey shouldn’t have lied.

  10. Ben, any thoughts on how one gets the pilots to fly broken planes – esp. the Delta one from Azores to the States – the crew must be scared – what if the plane just break apart in-flight? How do they get to do it?

  11. @Apu-Aircraft that are “broken” are inspected,for Airworthiness & then in conjuction with the Master Minimum Equipment List,given a ferry permit by the controlling Civil aviation Authority which enables the aircraft to be flown to a maintenance facilty in order to be repaired. Bear in mind ,the aircraft can still have major defects ,but deemed airworthy for a ferry flight.Frequently repairs are carried out in situ,in order to get the aircraft airworthy,to be able to ferry it.

    With regards to the 15 months that have elapsed since the accident, that may have been down to disagreements between the insurers & lessors( I believe American’s A321’s are leased)over the cost of repairs.

  12. Can you please keep us in the loop on this? Very concerning that, we still have no information or further details on this.

  13. Get off Gene’s back. He is right. Without full knowledge of the issue, Americans continue to disregard necessary precautions. We just need to look at today and how Covid precautions are taken. Tough guy Americans think they are invincible, too much Rambo and John Wayne I guess. If they are aware there is structural damage they just might take the pilots and FA advice on landing. You worry about hysteria from hearing the truth? They going to jump out?

  14. The made the right decision while the aircraft was in flight. Calling it an “issue” would have been better than calling it a computer malfunction, but they didn’t have time to refine their messaging while the incident was in progress.

    American, however, should have been more forthcoming about the incident after the aircraft was on the ground, the NTSB investigation was opened, and the lessor and insurer got involved. Delta handled the communications about their 757 incident much better.

  15. @ray, think you’re comment is more idiotic than @gene.

    The pilots turned back, landed the plane safely amid a then unknown incident. The safety of everyone on board is crucial and the pilots did the right thing, disclosing what they did, and when and how they did it, until the plane was back on the ground. The fact that this is even being debated is absurd.

  16. Probably stayed quiet about it for fear that this would be categorised as a hull loss incident, and consequent impact on their safety stats. Quietly writing it off a couple of years later, maybe it’s not counted.
    QANTAS spend 100 million repairing a 60 million 747 after it crash-landed at DMK in a Bangkok thunderstorm and ended up on a golf course…simply to avoid the hull loss stigma.

  17. Being a passenger on the plane, the pilot announced major computer malfunction. Anybody on the left side of the plane that looked out the window could see the light pole imbedded in the wing. I was on the other side of the plane and did not know that. From what I was told passengers on the plane told the stewardess who in turn relayed it to the pilot. At the time of the announcement, I don’t think the pilot knew he had hit something. His announcement caused chaos regardless if true or not. Everybody was scared for their life even though he said he had control.

  18. @Gene it’s possible that the pilots didn’t realize they had hit anything until they landed. All the pilots knew was they had a string uncommanded roll during takeoff, which could very well be an issue with the fly-by-wire and as such, computers. So in the pilots view, it may very well have been a computer malfunction.

  19. @Allen Greer wrote:

    “Being a passenger on the plane, the pilot announced major computer malfunction.”

    This is a primo example of Why Grammar Matters, dude.

  20. Typical AA to invent some lie than tell the truth or at least a version of the truth. Truth – the incompetent pilots hit something during take off and lied about it to cover their butt with the pax. Just another reason to avoid AA at all costs.

  21. Not quite sure why this article merits a full on AA bashing and a high praise for DL on what are two separate incidents. Obviously, the AA 321T had a problem on take off, and whether it was pilot error or something else, while relevant for investigations, isn’t really for anything else. The pilots returned to JFK safely and no one was injured. If the plane is being scrapped, who really cares?? It is sad that a new-ish plane won’t fly again but it’s not a big deal. As for the DL plane, I’d rather not fly on it. Remember JL 123? Repaired, badly, and then suffered a horrific crash a few years later? Perhaps AA does not think it is worth the risk.

  22. Reportedly Airbus could have fixed the aircraft, but told AA that if something happened in the future (cough cough JL123), they would assume no liability if it was related to a mechanical issue. Long story short, Airbus and AA both thought it was too risky to fly the aircraft again.

  23. I’m not sure why people are hating on AA and their pilots over this. Clearly there was major structural damage from the incident that was not apparent at the time which now has led to the scrapping of the aircraft. Those pilots did the right thing by returning regardless of what explanation they gave the passengers while returning to JFK. If they had continued the transcon that plane may have gone down. I’m sure the details will come out with the report as to the cause. In the meantime, I’m glad AA wrote off this plane. They probably don’t need it in the near future anyway.

  24. It’s a fact. Some people can’t handle the truth and telling them the truth about an incident like this on an aircraft may cause them hysteria which may in turn panic other passengers. So, where I would prefer the truth I accept the need of the pilot to fabricate a story to keep everyone calm until the plane is safely down.

    I have seen a passenger on a flight go into hysteria when there was nothing wrong (just a very bumpy ride through some rain clouds shortly before landing) and one of the pilots walked back to calm them down. With some folks freaking out over normal operation I can only imagine what would happen if they were told we hit something on takeoff and there might be a safety issue with the aircraft so we want to get back on the ground ASAP to check it out in case it is something serious (that could kill us all).

  25. Compare this incident to potus telling america that covid19 is no big deal. Don’t need to wear a mask. He didn’t want people to panic. Same b.s. lie.

  26. @Roger
    Not sure what the abundance of random capital letters throughout your post is about, but it is so distracting that your message is lost.
    Now, what was it all about? Do I really need to know?

  27. It’s not in the same league but some years ago on a multi-stop flight operated by an F-28 a cockpit window panel developed a crack. The pilot came on the intercom, told us exactly what happened and said we’d be dropping altitude and heading direct to our final destination instead.

    Another bit more serious incident, a flight operated a Dash 8 Q400. Soon after takeoff pilot comes on saying we’re losing hydraulics and need to return, after only 15 mins or so.

    On both incidents the pilots laid it out straight to us. And here’s the funny part: no one panicked. No screams, cries, yells, moans, some quiet talking. But mostly just silence and calm until we landed. So maybe the hard truth isn’t so unpalatable after all? My two cents…

  28. First, and most importantly I have long felt that it should be mandatory for all aircraft to have installed tailcam’s, as on A380 and I understand A350. This is supposedly a passenger feature, but it does give the pilots literally a bird’s eye view of the plane, especially the wings and engines. This would have been very helpful in this case. The pilots can hardly pop their head out of the window to have a look, although the more experienced ones might ask an FA to take a look and report back.
    Secondly, back to the FA’s. ANY information that assists the FA’s in their duty to maintain calm in any emergency has to be a given. This includes, but is not limited to benign comments, and yes, even lies.
    Contrary to this I was aboard a BA 747 bound for Nairobi when the pilot had just finished his after take off address, when there was a loud bang from the port wing. The pilot left the PA button switched on for the whole plane to hear “BA*** we have engine failure. Remarkably, and contrary to expectation, the cabin remained calm; I was in Y. Perhaps they thought it was a joke or a drill? LOL We continued climb on 3 and returned; landed safely.

  29. @Gene,

    I agree with you. I have been lied to by flight crew since the TWA days and often, passengers bulls++t meter goes off and in the absence of any real information, fear the worst. We lost an engine enroute from JFK to CDG. I felt the shudder and drop in altitude and leveling off. We had made it to the Gander area, 5 hours out of JFK when the pilot came on to tell us that everything is fine but a light went on and we want JFK to look at it so we’re going to turn around..will keep you posted when we get closer to JFK.. Bottom line is that a 747 can operate just fine on 1 engine let alone 3, loosing an engine mid flight but the flippant attitude from the crew scared my wife beyond words. I tried to explain that we almost half way to France and if the plane was not air-worthy, we would not be flying 5+ hours back to JFK as opposed to making an emergency landing at Gander., perhaps 15 minutes away but to no avail. The only reason the flight was turned around was an FAA protocol the if you loose power in an engine, over the water, you return the closest Coast. We were half an hour closer to JFK than to CDG.

    Note to crew: Tell the truth or at least put enough info out there to be believable.

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