File this both under “terrifying” and “all’s well that ends well.”
Envoy Embraer E175 loses part of wing during turbulence
On Tuesday, May 3, 2022, American Airlines flight 3729 was supposed to operate from Charleston (CHS) to Dallas (DFW). The flight was operated by American Airlines regional subsidiary Envoy, using an Embraer E175 (which is a lovely regional jet in general). The nearly six year old plane had the registration code N233NN.
The plane encountered some moderate to severe turbulence while cruising at 36,000 feet near Birmingham, Alabama… and then the plane lost part of its wing. Specifically, the right winglet (the end of the wing that “bends” up) fell off. Pilots immediately declared an emergency, and the plane landed in Birmingham about 35 minutes after the initial incident.
American ended up sending in a plane for stranded passengers, which made it to Dallas around four hours late. The original plane involved in the incident continues to sit on the ground in Birmingham. Below you can see some pictures of the winglet… it literally looks like it was cleanly chopped off, basically.
For context, below is what the winglet is roughly supposed to look like on this jet (in the below case it’s a special heritage livery plane).
The incident is now being investigated, though here’s what the initial FAA notice about this stated:
AIRCRAFT ENCOUNTERED MODERATE TO SEVERE TURBULENCE AND POST FLIGHT INSPECTION REVEALED A PIECE OF RIGHT WINGLET MISSING, BIRMINGHAM, AL.
This isn’t supposed to happen
Flying is incredibly safe thanks to the number of redundant systems in place when things go wrong, and also thanks to investigators learning from every incident, and implementing changes to mitigate risk going forward.
The thing is, some incidents are bound to happen and are fairly common, purely due to the number of flights that operate. This could range from engine failures, to smoke alarms, to injuries due to turbulence. But a part of the wing falling off during turbulence? That’s something you don’t often hear about.
Obviously this is incredibly alarming and concerning, and I’m sure a thorough investigation will be conducted to determine the root cause of this. At the same time, it’s also kind of reassuring that part of a plane’s wing can fall off at cruise altitude, and the plane can still land safely without any injuries.
On Tuesday an Embraer E175 regional jet lost its winglet during turbulence. The plane ended up diverting to Birmingham, and landed without further issues. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a story like this before, and I’m curious to see what the investigation reveals.
It’s interesting how little media attention this story has gotten so far. I’m sure it would be a different story if this happened on the Boeing 737 MAX…
What do you make of this American Eagle winglet incident?
(Tip of the hat to The Aviation Herald)
Cited in this story is accolades to redundant systems, etc. the story shouldn’t stop there. The pilots are the last line of defense. They safely were able to fly the plane to the ground and eliminate a sure catastrophe.
Missing part of an airfoil is a huge event. The other side was in tact which creates an opposing force which forces undue pressures on the aircraft and flight controls the pilots use to guide the aircraft.
Praise should go to the flight crew.
I know I'm being extremely picky about this, but in the interest of accuracy, your close-up picture of the winglet is from American Eagle's heritage liveried E-170, not an E-175. American is adding a number of E-170s to its fleet because they can be easily configured to seat 65 passengers and fall under its scope for small regional jets.
Here's a story about the E-170 heritage liveried aircraft. It's flown by Envoy Air.
I was the passenger who noticed the winglet missing and alerted the flight attendant who then told the pilots (who did not know the winglet was missing) and I can attest that this was a very scary scenario. I have videos of the landing, and pictures of the wing in flight. I appreciate the crew. What a terrifying experience.
Some older aircraft were retrofitted with winglets - 767/757 for sure but the age of this 175 seems to indicate it was original
Loss of winglet is a serious flaw that hopefully will be investigated. This would have resulted in asymmetrical lift and drag that could cause some inexperienced pilots a problem.
There was a whole 737 that ditched into the ocean off HNL last year and not a peep out of you on it, Lucky. But a winglet falls off and it's a crazy story....
Negative. That was an ancient 737-200, a cargo airline, and they lost their license immediately after the incident.
They lost an engine, and the remaining engine lost power after getting over-heated trying to maintain power to compensate for the loss of thrust in the other engine.
That said…I will accept your overall point.
Regardless of whether there was a mtx fault, or if somehow the winglet's ultimate loads were indeed exceeded.... it's worth noticing how cleanly it was designed to sheer off.
That's a pretty significant accomplishment, in favor of safety.
Besides BA911, is there any other hull loss accident caused by turbulence?
this incident appears to be getting way too much attention. Yes, unusual, yes,scary since while in the air you do not know what else is failing.
But many (mostly larger) jets can actually operate for a limited time without a winglet. It is mostly there to save fuel.
On an OMAAT scale of
1 (someone wore something unusual on a plane and look at the video of what happened!)
10 (wide open first class award seats to London/Paris for only 10,000 miles!)
I'd make this at least a 6.
The winglet is there to enhance lift and efficiency. The plan is to have TWO wnglets. Having one introduces many issues.
The other issue is that this winglet could have hit the fuselage and caused an uncontrolled failure AT cruising level.
Seems fortunate that the detached winglet didn't hit anything (or anyone) on the ground.
Oh, it hit *something*.
But whatever it hit couldn't/wasn't noticed by anyone who could talk.
What about the story earlier this week of the SpiceJet plane which encountered severe turbulence that injured several people? I’d say it is even more newsworthy than this. Some details: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/as-scary-as-runway-34-passengers-on-spicejet-horror-flight-recount-narrow-escape-1944304-2022-05-02 and https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-61304965
The magic of the internet is that there are countless free ways *you* can highlight such information, instead of telling someone else how to run their business.
Ahhh, don't ground the 170/5. I have 4 scheduled on them next week. Hopefully they just *wing it* ;)
LOL'd at the second item in the "In this post" rundown being:
"This isn’t supposed to happen"