DALLAS – 2020 was one of the most challenging years for the aerospace industry to date, with the COVID-19 pandemic having far-reaching and drastic consequences. Even with fewer aircraft flying, aviation safety is no less important.
In the year 2020, there were a number of major accidents, and several having fatalities. I wish to first send my condolences to all those affected by one of the accidents this year.
This article will step through the year’s major commercial aviation accidents which occurred between take-off and landing as a short look back, grouping them into themes. Many of these events are still under investigation by the respective authorities, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Excursions and Overruns
The year 2020 in aviation safety might be best classified by the number of runway excursions and overruns which occurred. There were major incidents and accidents involving a runway excursion all across the globe, from passenger to cargo airlines.
Starting off in the beginning of the year, a Pegasus Airlines (PC) Boeing 737-800, flight 747, overran the runway at Istanbul Sabinha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) on January 7. After a slide evacuation, there were no injuries reported. However, less than a month later, PC had a second event at the same airport.
On February 5, another Boeing 737-800 exited the runway. Unlike flight 747, flight 2193 had a different outcome. The fuselage broke into three pieces and there was fire. Unfortunately, three passengers perished in the accident and 179 were injured.
January 27 Caspian Airlines (IV) 6936 was landing at Mahshahr Airport (MRX), Iran when it overran the runway. The MD-83 had an unstabilized approach, and with extra fuel loaded and a tailwind, landed over two thirds down the runway. With these factors, the aircraft ended up exiting the airport perimeter and stopped on a nearby road. Fortunately, even with a write-off of the aircraft, there were no injuries to the passengers or crew.
Trigana Air Service (IL) 7341 was a cargo 737-300 aircraft which upon takeoff on July 28 experienced abnormal vibration. The takeoff was rejected and the aircraft ended up stopping partially in the grass. The initial report stated that both main landing gear experienced a separation of the upper and lower torsion links.
UTair Cargo (TUM), operating for the United Nations overran the runway at Gao Airport (GAO), Mali on August 3. The Antonov An-74TK-100 had had power issues in route, and while they were able to extend the gear manually, without thrust reversers the aircraft exited the runway with high speed. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair, but there were no fatalities reported.
On August 7, while landing at Kozhikode-Calicut Airport (CCJ), Air India Express (IX) 1344 overran the runway. The aircraft fell down a 34 m embankment after passing through the runway end safety area and broke into two pieces. Weather was reported to be poor at the time of the accident. Unfortunately, 21 people on board lost their lives, including both Pilots.
AirCaribe (JK) Peru was performing a cargo flight on 14 October when the aircraft exited the runway when landing at Iquitos Airport (IQT), Peru. The aircraft was destroyed, with the wings separating from the fuselage and the fuselage breaking into two. There were no reported fatalities.
Volga-Dnepr (VI) 4066 was a cargo flight on its second leg on a flight between South Korea and Austria on November 13. The flight took off from Novosibirsk-Tolmachevo Airport (OVB), Russia and had an unconfined engine failure on takeoff. Even with a loss of systems, the Flight Crew was able to get the aircraft back on the runway, but was unable to stop before the end. The nose landing gear collapsed, and debris from the engine was found in a nearby warehouse.
Another common theme this past year was a gear collapse or non-extension upon landing. While some of these ended with a runway excursion, all of them started with a non-standard gear configuration.
Nordwind Airlines (N4) Flight 1801, an A321-200, had a hard impact landing at Antalya Airport (AYT) on January 10. The investigation is still in progress by the Russian Investigation team, but the aircraft suffered damage when the nose landing gear penetrated into the cabin area. There was also evidence of further damage to the fuselage.
WestJet (WS) Encore 3107 also suffered nose gear failure, when it landed at Terrace Airport (YXT) in Canada on January 31. The Bombardier Dash 8 was landing in snowy weather when it exited the runway and had a nose gear collapse. The aircraft itself was repaired and returned to service.
Icelandair (FI) 529 was a flight from Berlin to Keflavík International Airport (KEF), Iceland on February 7. The wind conditions were unfavorable, and the aircraft landed successfully. However, after the main landing gear touched, the right-hand side collapsed and the Boeing 757 skidded on the right engine.
The aircraft came to a stop upon the runway and there were no injuries. The preliminary report states that there was a mis match between the threads on the swivel and nut, preventing a good grip. The nut was found on the runway.
Utair (UT) 595 was landing at Usinsk Airport (USK), Russia on February 9, when the Boeing 737 suffered a gear failure. The main landing gear failed and the aircraft came to rest on the runway. There were no reported injuries.
An Omni Air International (OY) 767-300ER was landing at Bucharest-Baneasa Airport (BBU), Romania for a refueling stop on its way from Kabul to Washington DC. Upon landing the left main landing gear failed, and alerts for unsafe gear configuration and fire engine 1 went off. The aircraft came to a rest and all passengers and crew used the slides to evacuate. There were no fatalities in the March 8 accident.
FedEx (FX) 1026 was a cargo flight on August 19 where the Boeing 767 was scheduled to land at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). However, with an “unsafe gear warning” the Flight Crew decided to instead perform two low passes so that airport staff members within the tower and on the ground could confirm that the left main landing gear was down. The aircraft then made an emergency landing on 25R. While there were sparks from the aircraft scraping on the runway, there was no fire.
At the beginning of this month, Air Djibouti (IV) had a gear collapse upon landing at Garowe Airport (GGR) in Somalia. The Boeing 737-500, registration EY-560, ended up resting on the right engine after stopping. There were no injuries to the people onboard the aircraft, which was fortunate as the airport’s fire truck was out of service due to a non-functioning wheel.
There were several other types of major events which occurred this year, most of which were less-common events.
Air Canada (AC) flight 837, a Boeing 767, had a tire rupture upon takeoff at Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD). The rupture, which occurred on February 3, unfortunately had the tire pieces ingested by the number 1 engine. The Flight Crew shut down the engine, declared an emergency, and landed several hours later. During the fuel burn a Spanish Air Force Hornet assisted the crew in conducting a visual inspection.
On May 7, a strange yet tragic event occurred at Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). Southwest (WN) Flight 1392 was landing at the airport when the reported seeing a man on the runway. Unfortunately, the man was struck by the aircraft and died at the scene. The man was not an authorized airport worker and an investigation was opened into how he got access to the runway.
Swift Air (WQ) 3158 was operated on May 19 by a Boeing 737-800, when crossing 8,000 feet, the Flight Crew heard a bang. Since all systems were normal, they decided to continue to San Diego International Airport (SAN) where they landed without incident. However, upon inspection it was found that the dorsal fin and several other panels of the vertical stabilizer were missing. The left horizontal stabilizer was also damaged due to impact from the panels.
Delta Air Lines (DL) Flight 89 was a bit different from the rest of these events. On January 14 the Delta Boeing 777 experienced engine problems and needed to return to LAX. Since the Boeing 777 is equipped with fuel dumping systems, the crew elected to dump fuel without informing ATC at a low altitude over a populated area of LA, including several schools.
While the aircraft landed without incident, emergency services were called to the areas where the fuel was dumped. Some children who were outside at school thought it was rain, and several were drenched by the falling fuel. At least 56 people reported injuries in the event. The FAA investigated the incident.
The final two events could be classified as the most tragic ones in loss of life for the year 2020. Both Ukraine International Airlines (PS) 752, and Pakistan International Airlines (PK) 8303 were tragic accidents where the entire aircraft was destroyed and hundreds of people lost their lives.
Ukraine International Airlines 752 took place on January 8, flying out of Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA), Iran. Less than 10 minutes after departure, the aircraft was shot down by the Air Defense force.
Through a series of communication breakdowns and heightened military alerts due to the US drone strike killing Major General Qasem Soleimani, further hampered by incorrect north alignment of the missile system spelled doom for this aircraft. The aircraft impacted 15 km north of the airport, and all 176 on board perished.
Pakistan International Airlines 8303 was the other major accident which occurred this year on May 22. The PK A320 aircraft landed with the landing gear raised, scraping the engines on the runway. The Flight Crew elected to perform a go-around, and unfortunately both engines soon failed after the aircraft took off again.
The Ram Air Turbine was deployed, but the aircraft crashed into a residential district. Only two passengers on the aircraft survived, and one person on the ground also perished.
Featured image: Pakistan International Airlines. Photo: Wiki Commons.