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6th of June 2010

While 156 passengers settle in for their flight, on a Boeing 737-400, from Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport (the Netherlands) to Nador-Taouima Airport (Morocco) the crew of 6 complete the final preparations. Once all doors were closed the aircraft was pushed back from the gate and once the engines were started the aircraft taxied to its assigned take-off runway. Runway 18L.

The damaged left engine (Source © Unknown)

The captain was to be the pilot flying and the co-pilot was to be the pilot monitoring. The aircraft was cleared to follow the Standard Instrument Departure (SID) LEKKO for runway 18L. During the taxi to the runway the aircraft was correctly configured for the take-off and the necessary checklists were completed. Once lined up on the runway the take-off clearance was issued, and after a short wait due to wake turbulence avoidance, the take-off was initiated at 21,42 local time (lt). Less than a minute later at a speed of 171 knots the aircraft got airborne and the pitch increased to 6º nose up.

With a positive climb rate indicated, the gear was selected up when the aircraft was at a height of 16 feet (~5 meters). At that moment in time, the aircraft suffered a birdstrike with multiple geese. This caused a near immediate loss of nearly all thrust of the left engine, and an unsafe nose landing gear door indication. At a height of 140 feet, the pitch attitude was 12º degrees nose up with the engine rpm's at 45.5% and 93.8%. The first officer announced the birdstrike and the captain decided to return immediately. The captain ordered the gear to be selected down and to declare an emergency with ATC, which was done by the co-pilot.

Emergency services in attendance (Source © Unknown)

With the aircraft performance severely degraded and with the landing gear down (the nose landing gear indication was for an unsafe gear). the aircraft struggled to gain altitude, the captain struggled to keep the aircraft in the air during the return to the field. The thrust on the right engine was reduced from ~94% to 82% at this time. A short while later several times a Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) alert was heard in the cockpit. The right engine thrust lever was pushed forward in response to the GPWS alerts, with the thrust increasing to 101%. The thrust of the right engine was reduced a short while later, this after the co-pilot remarked it had operated at take-off thrust for two minutes. The left engine was shut down according to the memory items for "Engine severe damage or separation" and the FMS was reprogrammed for the landing. As the aircraft continue to lumber through the skies over the Netherlands at low altitude (well below the 1200 feet sector altitude) ATC provided vectors for the aircraft to return for an emergency landing. At 21.52 lt the aircraft landed on Runway 18R Schiphol with emergency service in along the runway. No fire was detected. all passengers safely vacated the aircraft via stairs.

The aircraft flight pad, annotated with time, altitude, speed and thrust setting (© Dutch Safety Board)

Damage to the aircraft was extensive;

  • Dents in the fuselage and vertical stabiliser

  • Dents and a crack in the left engine inlet

  • 3 fanblades in the left engine had failed at ~50% of the span, causing damage to other fanblades.

  • Bird remains in/on the left main landing gear, the nose landing gear and in the electronic bay

  • Soot and oil traces on the outboard side of the left engine

  • Jammed brakes on the right main landing gear

  • Both tires on the right main landing gear had deflated

  • Left engine - Damaged low and high-pressure compressor - Damaged combustion chamber and high-pressure turbine nozzle guide vanes - Damage to high and low-pressure turbines

The Dutch Safety Board was informed of the incident and launched an investigation. 17 months after the incident they published an extensive report on the incident, the 150-page report is available by clicking here.

BAn extensive list of causal factors and contributing factors are listed in the report, some of them are;

  • The crew deviate from standard operational procedures

  • The crew made the right decision to return to the field

  • Reducing thrust on the undamaged engine

  • Crew Resource Management was not up to standard

After extensive repairs, the aircraft was returned to service.

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