In August 2019, a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 made headlines when it sustained a very hard landing in Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal. The fuselage of the aircraft was badly bent in several places, putting the aircraft out of service. Some speculated that the incident was the end of the aircraft’s life – yet a month later it landed in Atlanta, United States and resumed service in Delta’s fleet in December 2019. The aircraft survived the incident to live another day, but the current circumstances surrounding aviation might spell the end for the Boeing 757.
The original incident that made the aircraft, registered N543US, famous occurred on August 18, 2019. The hard landing resulted in substantial damage. According to the Portuguese aviation accident investigators (Gabinete de Prevenção e Investigação de Acidentes com Aeronaves (GPIAAF), several areas of the fuselage were deformed due to the stress of compression. Several aircraft skin stringers also showcased signs of damage, including cracks. The damage was consistent with a nose landing gear overload, stated GPIAAF.
Portuguese investigators concluded that the accident was the result of an excessive nose down movement after the main landing gear touched the ground. The excessive movement could have been forced by a crosswind at the time of landing, noted the investigators. Further contributing factors were that the 757 was cleared to land on runway 12 when the crew prepared to conduct an ILS landing on runway 30; the narrow-body’s mass upon landing contributed to the damage, as the aircraft was just below the maximum authorized landing weight (MLW).
Nevertheless, the aircraft returned to the United States in September 2019.
Massively proud of our @delta engineers, mechanics, materials, quality, flight ops, safety folks and all the other teams who made this happen. One of our birds is in the air after a prolonged stay in the Azores. #deltaproud #keepclimbing #avgeek pic.twitter.com/gxsiwZ9qtS— Michael Rennick (@Michaelrennick) September 16, 2019
The Boeing 757 then returned to actively serve Delta Air Lines’ operations in December 2019. However, now, as the coronavirus pandemic makes significant changes to the landscape of commercial aviation, the aircraft might have had its last flight on April 3, 2020, when it was shipped to San Bernardino International Airport (SBD) for storage. The airport is known as a facility where airlines send their aircraft for maintenance, storage, or disassembly.
If so, the disassembly of the 757 would conclude its interesting story: despite it being 23 years old at the time of the accident, the airline still chose to repair the aircraft despite the damage that it had sustained and use it for commercial service. Due to unforeseen circumstances, however, the aircraft’s life could become short-lived – probably something that Delta did not anticipate.
AeroTime News approached Delta Air Lines for comment.