Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350 Suffers Wing Tip Strike During Landing

An Ethiopian Airlines Airbus suffered extensive wing damage after a hard landing in Johannesburg earlier this month. The incident damaged a jet just one-year-old and is the latest in a series of incidents to dog the airline.

A hard landing causes wingtip damage

A report in The Aviation Herald details the incident on Saturday, November 6. The Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350-900 was operating flight ET809 from Addis Ababa to Johannesburg. ET809 is the daily 08:40 departure down to South Africa’s biggest city.

On the day, ET-AYB was operating the flight. The jet is 12 months old. According to The Aviation Herald, the Airbus landed hard on Johannesburg’s runway 03R before aborting and going around to land safely about 20 minutes later.

Images later posted online reveal damage to the jet’s right wingtip. ADS-B data indicates the Airbus was descending at 500 plus feet per minute when it touched down. The jet landed around 120 meters past the runway’s threshold but before the first touch down zone marker.

ET-AYB then veered 12 degrees to the right before climbing through 400 feet AGL around 1500 feet to the right of the runway centerline and overflying the hangars east of the runway. The Aviation Herald cites an unnamed local source saying the plane experienced a runway excursion.

Per local requirements, the Accident and Incident Investigations Department of South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority was notified on the same day, and they initiated an investigation. A preliminary report is due within 30 days.

However, the aviation safety agency has already classified the incident as an accident, saying the Airbus encountered a strong crosswind while landing, causing the right wing tip to make contact with the runway.

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A run of incidents involving Ethiopian Airlines aircraft

The incident in Johannesburg is the fifth notable incident involving Ethiopian Airlines this year. Notably, the airline hit the headlines in April after two Boeing 737s came close to landing at an airport still under construction.

On April 4, ET-AQP, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 flying between Addis Ababa and Ndola in Zambia approached to land at an airport still being built – Copperbelt International Airport. The pilots were on final approach and aborted the landing 50 feet above ground level before diverting to the correct airport.

On the same day, ET-AYL, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 freighter also flying the same sector, did land at Copperbelt. The Boeing landed and taxied to the apron under construction before realizing they were at the wrong airport. The plane then headed back to the runway to take off and land at the correct airport.

Over the following months, a couple of lower-profile engine and electrical issues dogged the airline. In May, ET-ALM, a Boeing 737-700, was departing Windhoek for Addis Ababa when one of the plane’s CFM56 engines failed during takeoff, causing the pilots to abort the takeoff.

In August,  ET-AXL, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was approaching Manchester when there was an engine fire indication. While not particularly uncommon, the alert saw emergency services positioned as the Dreamliner came in to land. The flight touched down without incident, was inspected and cleared.

Fast forward three months, and this time it is an Ethiopian Airbus 350 making the news. Nearly two weeks after the incident, ET-AYB remains on the ground in Johannesburg.


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