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18th of July 2012

A 1981-built Boeing 737-230 Advanced operated a domestic passenger flight In Chili, between Antofagasta-Cerro Moreno Airport and La Serena-La Florida Airport on this day in 2012. Onboard the aircraft were 6 crew members and 115 passengers for the ~721 kilometres (451 miles) flight.

The damaged wingtip (Source; © Unknown)

Visibility at La Serena-La Florida was deteriorating, but still well above the minimum required for the aircraft to land, reportedly around 6000 meters of visibility when the plane approached the runway. At 16.57 lt (local time) the flight crew contacted ATC at La Serena reporting that they were 31 nautical miles from the Serna VOR. ATC cleared them for a visual approach to runway 30 with a right-hand base leg to the runway.

Eight minutes later (at 16.05 lt) the crew contacted ATC, reporting they were 5.4 miles from the Serena VOR. After this report, ATC cleared the aircraft to land on runway 30. The crew did not follow the instructions from ATC and, instead of flying the righthand base leg as instructed, they flew a diagonal approach to the runway. This resulted in an unstabilised approach, during which the aircraft was never aligned with the (extended) centreline of the runway. In an attempt to align the aircraft with the runway, the aircraft was banked right while over the runway, resulting in the right-hand wing tip striking the runway. A go-around was initiated, damage to the right-hand wing tip was extensive, and it appeared it was bent upwards, also a flap fairing (Fairing number 8) appeared to have been damaged. The crew decided to divert to Copiapó Airport, A safe landing was made at Copiapó at 17.47 lt.

The approach and tip strike as seen by a passenger (Source; / Francisco Zamora)

The tip strike was investigated by the Direccción General de Aeronáutica Civil of Chili (DGAC). in their report (in Spanish) they listed the following, extensive damage to the aircraft;

  • Wing tip bent upwards

  • Abrasion of lower wing surface

  • Aileron damaged

  • Slat #6 damaged

  • Right-hand aft flap damaged

  • Right-hand mid flap damaged

  • Flap Track fairing #8 damaged

  • Flap drive in Flap Track Fairing #8 damaged

The DGAC investigation identified the probable cause of the tip strike to be an unstabilised approach. They also listed the following contributing factors;

  1. A visual approach was flown without following the procedures for such an approach as described in the Airplane Flight Manual and the Flight Crew Training Manual.

  2. The approach was not aborted when it became evident that the approach was outside the parameters for a stabilised approach.

The tip strike as seen from the ground (source; / vivayoforeverandever)

After all the damage was repaired the aircraft was returned to service. The report from the DGAC (in Spanish) can be accessed by clicking on the file below;

B737-230 La Serena-La Florida tip strike
Download PDF • 6.59MB

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