Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Northwest Airlines Boeing 757 loses wing panel in flight

Northwest Airlines logoA panel separated from the right wing of a Northwest Airlines Boeing 757-200 yesterday while the aircraft was in flight. The incident happened on May 12, 2008, while the aircraft, operating as Northwest Flight NWA 322, was en route from Los Angeles to Detroit. The crew declared an emergency and diverted to Las Vegas, where the aircraft landed safely. No one was injured.

According to a preliminary report about the incident on the FAA website, the separation of the panel, which measured about 2 feet by 3 feet, caused a "hydraulic issue." After separating from the wing, the panel hit the aircraft's horizontal stabilizer.

This incident is reminiscent of another that happened in March of this year, when a wing panel separated from a US Airways Boeing 757-200 while the aircraft was flying over Maryland. A month later, the NTSB cited metal fatigue as the cause of that incident. In its factual report on the US Airways incident, the NTSB mentioned that US Airways "had inspected the wing panels on all of its 757s and found problems with wing panel fasteners on several other aircraft, which were since repaired and returned to service." The NTSB also said that they were "continuing to evaluate the design, installation, inspection and maintenance of the failed components to determine the cause of the failure and the impact on the 757 fleet."

Was yesterday's Northwest incident related? Maybe -- or maybe not -- but it does make you wonder...