Ouch: United 767 Sustains Serious Damage From Rough Landing

Ouch: United 767 Sustains Serious Damage From Rough Landing

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To the untrained eye, this looks like it’ll take more than just some duct tape to fix…

Rough landing damages United Boeing 767

This incident happened on Saturday, July 29, 2023, and involves a 32-year-old United Airlines Boeing 767-300 with the registration code N641UA. The jet was performing flight UA702 from Newark (EWR) to Houston (IAH). The flight was routine, until the landing, as flagged by @xJonNYC and reported by The Aviation Herald.

The jet reportedly had an incredibly hard landing on runway 26L at Houston Intercontinental Airport. The plane taxied to the gate without incident, and there were no injuries. Rough landings happen all the time, so why is this noteworthy?

Well, this wasn’t just your typical rough landing, because the aircraft sustained substantial damage as a result of it, including wrinkles and tears in the fuselage. The damage was discovered during a post flight inspection — better that than the recent incident where a United A320 had an accident, and then kept flying.

For what it’s worth, winds at the time of the incident were calm, and were just three knots. So I think it’s safe to say that weather conditions can’t be blamed for this.

The damage to the fuselage of the United Boeing 767

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is now investigating the incident. According to reports online (which haven’t been confirmed, but I’m sure they’ll all be revealed in an investigation):

  • The tear extended to both sides of the fuselage, and some of the panels inside the cabin came off upon impact; furthermore, there was reportedly a small hole in the top of the cabin that let in light
  • The pilot flying at the time was a new hire, so it remains to be seen how lack of experience factored into what happened

Will this United Boeing 767 fly again?

Now the big question becomes whether this United Boeing 767 will fly again. Two things are for sure:

  • At 32 years old, this jet can’t be that far from retirement; then again, the plane did get new cabin interiors in recent years
  • Fuselage damage is much more challenging to fix than damage to one specific part of the aircraft, like if you had landing gear damage due to a hard impact

For what it’s worth, in 2019, a Delta Boeing 757 had a very rough landing in the Azores, which also caused tears in the fuselage. While most at the time thought that the plane wouldn’t enter service again, Delta did decide to fix it, and it was back in service within four months.

While the damage looks similar, that doesn’t mean that it’s the same structurally. I’ll be fascinated to see if this plane ends up being scrapped, or lives to fly another day.

A Delta Boeing 757 had similar fuselage damage a few years back

Bottom line

A United Airlines Boeing 767 had a rough landing at Houston Airport over the weekend, to the point that there were wrinkles in the fuselage. Those don’t just iron out easily, and the airline is now deciding what to do with this plane. It’s anyone’s guess if it will fly again.

What do you make of this United Boeing 767’s landing damage?

Conversations (65)
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  1. Danny Guest

    An inexperienced female pilot landed this jet. Hard-landed it that is. That's a fact. And no, it was not repairable. Common Gordon? Common? No they are not; not at this level of damage. Nice try. Bottom line, she was very inexperienced and as my son who is a pilot out west told me, she was hyper-spaced into the captain position of this 767 in less than a year, when white male pilot would take over 2. I agree 100% with Katie below.

  2. Katie Guest

    Too much emphasis on DEI now instead of excellence in flying. Not to mention, you can't ask if the pilot has been inoculated and boosted, which may cause sudden death in the air. As long as there is a road to my destination, I'll be driving, thank you very much

  3. Terry Guest

    What is a new hire doing flying a 767???

  4. BillyBobTexas Guest

    Sand it down. A little bondo. New paint. Good as new. What's the beef??!! We used to say: "If it flew in, it'll fly out".....

    1. Huh? Guest

      ever hear of planes breaking about mid-air? Yer a two-bit knucklehead.

  5. Swony Guest

    Must have been a Navy pilot reliving some of his carrier landings!

    1. Tom Guest

      Navy pilots plant the main gear for the tail hook to grab a wire, they don't plant the nose.

  6. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Delta's 767 that got pelted by hail on departure from MXP is set up for a ferry flight back to the US on Saturday

  7. Gordon Williams Guest

    This damage isn’t bad, although it is referred to as a “broken back”. These “broken backs” are quite common on the 767-300 when experiencing hard landings. Depending on part availability Boeing can have this airplane back in the air in 2, 3 months tops. The only reason to scrap it is if United decides it is cost prohibitive.

  8. TH Guest

    Yes, this is fixable, and UAL maintenance could do it... but its down to the bean counters, there are no more "legacy" united directors and VPs , the entire company is run by people with business degrees. the current state of UAL maintenance program sides towards scrapping A/C

  9. Brian McCarthy Guest

    I'm confused. Was the airplane 32 years old, or the pilot?

  10. JL Guest

    United lowered the requirements for its new pilots with the AVIATE Academy, and is also on track with lower requirements for with Calibrate program for its future Aircraft Technicians as well. SAFE TO SAY.

  11. Ben Guest

    On my last 4 united flights 3 of them had rough landings and 1 was good. It could be that the new hires are not getting trained correctly. Glad no one was injured.

  12. Doug S Guest

    Looks like the damage extends over the top of the fuselage, just ahead of the wing attachment, but is less severe over the bottom of the fuselage.

    My guess: a very hard strike on the nose landing gear, forcing the front section of the fuselage upward. Then (as the main gear contacted the runway) the front section straightened again, and at the top of the fuselage, the most-stressed and most-folded section of the skin tore.

  13. Arrowspace90 Guest

    This happened a few years ago to a United 757 at EWR. Same thing, a new hire pilot. The poor 75 hit nosewheel first and the strut was pushed up into the fuselage.
    United scrapped it. There was never any word whether the new hire kept his job or not. There was an instructor captain too but he couldn’t react quickly enough.
    Shit happens to everyone, but let’s hope this wasn’t a DEI hire.

  14. Lara S. Guest

    I had a united flight land at ABIA (AUS) recently and had to say whew when we came to a stop. Because of high/gusty winds they came in a little fast and landed hard and then stopped at the very last moment. Like I could see the fenceline at the end of the runway (heading north) out the window just beyond the end of the runway from my window. The plane just paused for like...

    I had a united flight land at ABIA (AUS) recently and had to say whew when we came to a stop. Because of high/gusty winds they came in a little fast and landed hard and then stopped at the very last moment. Like I could see the fenceline at the end of the runway (heading north) out the window just beyond the end of the runway from my window. The plane just paused for like 20 seconds instead of smoothly turning left as usual and I swear it was the pilots also going "whew". So, hard landings happen though in this case it was with no bad weather, but glad no one got hurt. Am surprised with that kind of damage (that must have been inside the plane) no one posted anything online though.

  15. Ryan R Guest

    Word on the street is that United is growing too fast and is having trouble getting experienced pilots

  16. Paul Guest

    Not a pilot, just interested-- No weather, but Houston has been hot (I live here). Is air just on top of the runway less dense than the last 1000 feet of approach, causing a sudden increase in the descent into the pavement?

    1. John B Guest

      Yes, that can definitely happen. When it does, the aircraft just seems to fall through the flare. But, I don't think that could explain this.

  17. Jared Guest

    Lmao!! Maybe a few more years at this rate of "retirement" will force United to modernize their fleet. Then they may actually be competitive with the hard products offered on global airlines instead of basically a shit cabin and a horrible experience United calls service.

  18. Kent Guest

    Good riddance to another 767! The tranverse loading must have been immense to cause buckling like that near the joint connecting the forward and central fuselages and the wing fairings. Damn!

    Seems like United has decided that damaging their planes is the easiest way to retire them.

  19. Paul Guest

    The FO was a new hire, I would be interested to hear what his/her actual experience is. How experienced is the Captain. As pilots we have all had a few hard landings but experience matters. With the extream pilot shortage raising the mandatory pilot retirement age to 67 to keep experience on the Flight Deck is a necessity for safety.

    1. Anon Guest

      A diversity hire that was riddled with checkride failures from a previous company and over 6x the amount of necessary ioe.

  20. George Mells Guest

    This could have resulted from a small microburst and maybe the flight recorder will help. The damage does not look that bad but I doubt it will "buff out" and I think the FAA frowns on the use of bondo as a fix.

    1. Steerage Guest

      Speed tape will fix anything!!

  21. Syd Guest

    I am one of those who will be sad to see 767s go over the next few years. One of DLs got likely totaled last week in Rome, now one of UAs likely done as well - only brings the end closer. It was a good run.

  22. Salty B Guest

    Scrap it. These old scows are tired.

    1. Maurice Guest

      The 757 / 767 was a great pair. They had the same avionics on introduction, which made it extremely cost-effective for airlines in regards to training... I worked at a place who operated a convertible 757 / 767 simulator. We loaded a different flight model, that was about it...

  23. iamhere Guest

    I assume we will see more weather related incidents coming soon

  24. Walden Guest

    One less POS United 767 flying.

  25. glenn t Diamond

    Time to sell it to AirIndia; they will have it back in the air as soon as the new paint dries.

    1. Kent Guest

      Ha! No one is as thrifty as the American businessman. United will have this aircraft back in the air as soon as it pays off all the signatories. All bow down to the shareholders!

    2. Sarthak Guest

      And when Air India has much younger Etihad, Singapore Airlines jets too choose from (and bigger, much more relevant for them), I doubt they'd have any interest in these tired planes. Even DL 772s are fill-ins.

  26. Jimmy Guest

    United is retiring the 767. This will not be fix. It will be used for spare parts and a write off.

  27. BoardingAreaFlukie Guest

    It's odd that there were no social media reports from anyone on the flight given the severity of the landing and damages.

  28. Tim Dunn Diamond

    first, the Delta 757 involved in that incident is younger than the United 767 by 5 years and the incident happened 4 years ago - so the 757 had a lot more potential life left in it.

    Second, Airline pilot forums was discussing this issue long before the first tweet (or X) from Jon whatever his name is

    1. Greg Guest

      Agree that 'jon' account is a bit extra but it did cite the airliner forum

      From what I read some speculation it wasn't so much a hard main gear landing, but a hard nose gear hit that causes damage in that spot. So either planted straight on the nose gear or too hard of a rotation down after the main gear.

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      I see no reference to Airline Pilot Forums which is a pilot chat forum.
      Aviation Herald is an accident/incident focused cite

    3. D3kingg Guest

      Jon NYC always gets the breaking news. Facts !

    4. Tim Dunn Diamond

      except United pilots were talking about it on APC hours before Jon showed up

    5. JonNYC Gold

      you're such a pathetic, pedantic douche, get over it already

  29. Bob Guest

    This explains the 12hr delay on IAHSCL that day

    1. JL Guest

      United lowered the requirements for its new pilots with the AVIATE Academy, and is also on track with lower requirements with the Calibrate program for its future Aircraft Technicians as well. SAFE TO SAY.

  30. Not UA 767 Pilot Guest

    Vertical speed wasn't anything egregious, 760fpm....forgot to flare. Ouch is right. same flight day after was 769fpm

  31. BobsYourUncle Guest

    I am supposed to be on this same flight on a 763 on Friday. Curious to see if there is an aircraft change and how UA handles it.

  32. Alan Guest

    The best pilots deserve the best contract!

  33. Harry Guest

    With no weather, you can almost always expect a wide body to land smooth as silk. Obviously this pilot was trying to fly into the ground and at the last moment figured this was a big wide body, cockpit higher off the ground than the Cessna 172 he is use to flying. Really no excuse from the cockpit. Again as in some of the previous comments, 767 age is really not relevant. You can tear...

    With no weather, you can almost always expect a wide body to land smooth as silk. Obviously this pilot was trying to fly into the ground and at the last moment figured this was a big wide body, cockpit higher off the ground than the Cessna 172 he is use to flying. Really no excuse from the cockpit. Again as in some of the previous comments, 767 age is really not relevant. You can tear up a brand new plane just as easy. Typical American union pilot wages, paying a lot more and getting a lot less. Go figure.

    1. betterbub Diamond

      you're the type of guy to get mad when a quarterback throws a single incompletion

    2. Harry Guest

      Almost flying into the ground and football incompletion. Great comparison...geez!

    3. D3kingg Guest

      The only time you should ever expect a wide body to land as smooth as silk is if the plane is only a third full , light on fuel , and no cargo.

  34. SD Guest

    This particular airframe is cursed. Before this incident it also had an engine fire operating UA129 IAH-GIG. But also many more incidents. They definitely need to retire her ASAP.

    1. grichard Guest

      "A good landing is one you walk away from. An excellent landing is one where you can use the plane again."

      Good landing!

  35. S Gold

    767 had a good run but it's time to go. UA has had a lot of issues with them this year and the 321/Max replacements can't come soon enough.

    1. jcil Guest

      However, from the customer pov, the longer range narrow bodies are a really shitty replacement for the 767. I have come to despise 3x3 seating in economy, and try to avoid it at all costs. The 767 with 2-3-2 in coach was very nice, especially for longer flights.

      The 787 with 3-3-3 economy seating also is absolutely terrible. The A330 at 2-4-2 is a million times preferable..

    2. S Gold

      Agree the 767 is significantly better than the narrowbodies or 777 for long flights. For upgrade space, for families, for solo travelers, everyone. But it's over, sadly.

  36. Rob Guest

    So which row of seats did the buckle happen at? Can anyone tell from the pics?

    1. Tom Guest

      Closer to 20 or 21 in front of the wing root.

    2. Leo Liang Guest

      If the plane is insured, better retire then fix it.

  37. JB Guest

    Given that the plane was likely going to be retired in the next 2-3 years, I think United will choose to scrap the plane rather than spend the money to fix it. Delta still planned on using the 757 for a longer period of time.

    Due to United's unreliability at the moment, it won't hurt the airline to have one less plane ;)

    1. Willie Guest

      it is being repaired. Boeing is already scheduled to do the repair at IAH. With no middle market replacements the 767s will fly until the fall from the sky.

  38. JetBlueFanboy Diamond

    Lots of incidents involving 767's recently!
    Oh, and, it's good to hear that they discovered the damage after landing, and not 7 flights later like the recent A320 tailstrike.

  39. betterbub Diamond

    Sometimes you just really gotta get to the restroom

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

betterbub Diamond

you're the type of guy to get mad when a quarterback throws a single incompletion

5
jcil Guest

However, from the customer pov, the longer range narrow bodies are a really shitty replacement for the 767. I have come to despise 3x3 seating in economy, and try to avoid it at all costs. The 767 with 2-3-2 in coach was very nice, especially for longer flights. The 787 with 3-3-3 economy seating also is absolutely terrible. The A330 at 2-4-2 is a million times preferable..

4
betterbub Diamond

Sometimes you just really gotta get to the restroom

4
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