Yesterday I shared the story of what happened to an American Airlines A321 last week that was scheduled to fly from New York to Los Angeles. Immediately after takeoff the plane banked uncontrollably 45 degrees to the left, causing the wing to strike a sign to the side of the runway.
The pilots didn’t initially realize what happened, but further into their climb they contacted air traffic control to return to JFK, and the plane landed without incident.
The NTSB is now investigating the incident, which sounded terrifying. I can’t imagine sitting in a window seat on the plane, and banking 45 degrees to the side just a moment after takeoff, all while seeing the wing strike a sign on the ground.
So, what was it like onboard? A reader who was booked on this flight and who also had a window seat on the left side of the plane has shared her experience with me:
I was a passenger on AA Flight #300 departing JFK to LAX. I also had the good fortune (obviously I’m kidding) of witnessing the wing scraping the ground, sparking and bending during takeoff. Takeoff was unusually aggressive and tilted forcefully on the left side of the plane causing the damage to the wing. Most passengers, including a friend I was traveling with, didn’t notice anything other than there was a violent takeoff. Most passengers who had window seats on the left side of the plane were freaking out, myself included (I thought we were going to be incinerated if the sparks turned into a fire, couldn’t believe we were in the air with a tattered, flapping wing and I didn’t call my mom before we got on the plane).
I was waiting for the pilot to make an announcement which didn’t come until we were 15 mins in the air. At that point, he announced that the emergency controls kicked in and it didn’t make sense to fly to LA in this condition. We returned to JFK safely and were going to be put on a different plane. Thank God no one was hurt. Very close call but very scary. I hope this answers some of the questions in your comments section. The situation was initially minimized but now that there is an ongoing investigation, I felt compelled to clarify a few points.
Once back at JFK, we were told that we would be leaving at 2am and to wait in the lounge. We had everything we needed. The flight was then cancelled for the night and scheduled to depart at 9am Friday morning. We were given vouchers for food, transportation and lodging. AA and the pilot handled the situation well considering that they likely didn’t know the severity of the situation at the time. Overall, I’m grateful we made it back in one piece. I’ll likely be seeing my shrink consistently over the next few months but I’m in good spirits considering.
It will be interesting to see what the NTSB report about the incident reveals. Kudos to the pilots for getting the plane safely back on the ground.