The damaged aircraft was just two years old.
A soft, smooth landing on a typical calm day is certainly the best way to end any flight. Unfortunately, for one particular Ethiopian Airlines flight recently, the landing was probably anything but smooth, as the aircraft suffered a tailstrike upon landing at Lubumbashi International Airport.
The incidental flight was ET 877, a daily scheduled passenger flight on the Addis Ababa-Lilongwe-Lubumbashi route. It happened on October 6th, and albeit the lack of any Meteorological Terminal Air Report (METARs), the local weather station at Lubumbashi reported temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius, which is a typical warm day for the city.
Winds during the time of the landing of ET 877 were blowing from the East at approximately 12 knots with no gusts, and there was no significant weather reported. In other words, it was a calm day. However, as ET 877 made its first approach to runway 07, the landing was aborted at 12:54 for unknown reasons. The pilots then circled and landed on the second attempt at around 13:12.
Unfortunately, when the aircraft taxied and parked at its gate, it was discovered that it had suffered a nasty tail strike that shredded away a large portion of the undercarriage. Despite the significant structural damage sustained on the aircraft, it was fortunate that there were no reported injuries from the passengers and crew.
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The operating aircraft was one of Ethiopian Airlines' 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, a Boeing 787-9 registered as ET-AYC and nicknamed 'Bangkok.' The African carrier leased the aircraft from lessor AerCap in October 2020, making the aircraft to be just two years old.
Besides a badly skinned undercarriage, ET-AYC also sustained some minor cracks, leaving it unable to continue flight operations. The aircraft remained grounded in Lubumbashi for approximately 24 hours before it was ferried unpressurized back to Addis Ababa as flight ET 9201, reaching a maximum altitude of only 13,000 feet.
Given the aircraft's young age, it's disheartening to see how quickly its operating lifespan had come to such an abrupt halt. Although it is currently unclear how Ethiopian Airlines or Boeing plans to repair such extensive damages, ET-AYC will hopefully fly through the skies again.
It is worth noting whether the tail strike occurred during the aborted first landing or the successful second landing of ET 877 remains uncertain. But still, how could a tailstrike have happened upon landing on a relatively calm day, especially on a widebody aircraft?
The most notable explanation could have been that the pilots had over-flared during the landing. Over-flaring occurs when pilots perform their landing flare too high or too fast just before touchdown, so instead of having the aircraft settle gently on the runway, the over-flare would cause the aircraft to drop more abruptly.
Hopefully, the incident of ET 877 is not a repeat of the incident in August, when Ethiopian Airlines had to suspend two of its Boeing 737 pilots for sleeping during their flights, resulting in the pilots having missed their landing.
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Journalist - Charlotte is currently pursuing a full-time undergraduate degree majoring in Aviation Business Administration and minoring in Air Traffic Management. Charlotte previously wrote for AirlineGeeks. Based in Singapore.
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