An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 was disabled in an accident, which saw part of the left landing gear leg pierce the wing’s structure.
It happened on Sunday the 20th of August. The accident involved an Alaska Airlines 737-800, with tail number N516AS. This aircraft is nearly 15 years old, entering service in 2008, with Alaska being its first and only operator.
Some observers opine that the accident aircraft will likely not fly again after this event. It currently belongs to lessor Castlelake. The crew of the accident 737-800 were performing Alaska flight 1288, departing from Seattle Tacoma International (KSEA).
Their destination was Santa Ana John Wayne Airport (KSNA) in California. This flight usually departs at 7:40 pm local time and lasts around 2 hours and 25-30 minutes. At this time we don’t know how many passengers and crew were on board the Alaska 737-800 during the accident.
Alaska 737-800 Accident Flight
The flight itself appears to have been uneventful. It departed from Seattle about an hour behind schedule, taking off from runway 34R. The aircraft spent most of the cruise at FL390, making its way south toward California.
But one factor in this accident was that the Alaska crew were flying their 737-800 into California while the State felt the effects of tropical storm Hilary. The Alaska pilots prepared for an approach into Santa Ana’s runway 20R, in windy and gusty conditions, with a wet runway.
This was the METAR in effect at the time closest to the flight’s landing:
KSNA 210653Z AUTO 14014G26KT 2SM -RA BKN014 OVC022 20/17 A2984 RMK AO2 PK WND 13026/0647 SLP103 T02000172 PNO $=
A passenger video of the accident seems to suggest that the Alaska 737-800 was approaching the runway at a relatively high speed. Wind corrections for these conditions could warrant a higher approach speed. But the crew had to balance this against the length of the runway, which is a modest 1,737 meters or 5,700 feet.
Clear Of The Runway?
The same passenger video shows the aircraft making a hard contact with the runway. We can then see sparks, as the engine contacts the runway, and the aircraft slows down. The video is cut before the aircraft stops, but the flight crew did stop it safely.
But surprisingly, they didn’t stop it on the runway. It appears that the Alaska crew stopped the 737-800 in this accident after making a left turn on taxiway E. There was no evacuation. The flight’s passengers and crew disembarked using mobile airstairs and were bussed to the terminal. There were no injuries.
However, the aircraft suffered substantial damage. The top end of the left landing gear leg strut pierced the wing, causing damage to its structure. The left engine remained in contact with the runway during and after the accident.
At this time we don’t know if the rest of the airframe suffered more damage. As of this writing, the aircraft hasn’t flown since the accident – and it will likely take some time to fly again, assuming repairing it proves to be economical.