ACCIDENT: Alaska 737-800 Gear Leg Punches Through Wing

By Spyros Georgilidakis | August 22, 2023

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.

The incident aircraft in an older picture, back in 2011, when it was less than three years old. Photo: Jeroen Stroes Aviation Photography, CC BY 2.0

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.

ACCIDENT: Alaska 737-800 Gear Leg Punches Through Wing
Photo: @SDYankee69 via X (formerly Twitter)

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.

ACCIDENT: Alaska 737-800 Gear Leg Punches Through Wing
Photo: @SDYankee69 via X (formerly Twitter)

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.

ACCIDENT: Alaska 737-800 Gear Leg Punches Through Wing
Photo: @SDYankee69 via X (formerly Twitter)

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.

The accident aircraft off the runway, on taxiway E. Photo: Orange County Fire Authority

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.



  • Take THAT, Runway!!!

  • I grew up in Santa Ana California and when I was a kid in the late 50s and early sixties they’d shut down 20L on Saturdays and us it for drag racing! This practice ended when Orange County International Raceway was built. Back in that time Southern Orange County hadn’t been built up so once you drove two blocks south of Edinger Street in Santa Ana the city ended and you drove along a two lane road past fields with moo moo cows until you got to the white picker fence surrounding the control tower and you could walk into the cafe at the base of the tower that had model aircraft hanging from the ceiling and have lunch.
    On my 13th birthday on December 17th 1966 my mother dropped me off at the Talmantz Aviation Museum at OC Airport and I spent the whole day going through the place including the bone yard and I got to climb through a B-29 fuselage (that still had all the 50 caliber Browning machine guns with wooden dowels pounded in the barrels to make them safe), I also got to climb up into the empty fuselage of a North American F-107 Super Sabre and I made it all the way to the air intake over the pilots canopy (How I didn’t manage to cut myself on all the sharp metal!) and the pièce de résistance was I got to stand on the wing of a XF-85 Goblin parasitic fighter that had been developed for the B-36 Peacemaker bomber and check out the cock pit (This particular aircraft, tail number 524, has been restored and is in the SAC Museum in Omaha.
    Good times and memories!

  • I’m guessing there was a rush for the lavatory once the passengers got to the terminal. 😉💩
    Any landing you can walk away from is a good one.

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