The Airbus A321-200 (registered N198UW) performed a flight AA-1642 from Detroit (DTW) to Charlotte (CLT) in the U.S. on August 10, 2020.
The aircraft landed uneventfully 15 minutes behind its original schedule as there were no reported issues during the flight. However, a post-flight inspection revealed that the aircraft had dropped one of its slat rivets at some point during the journey.
The A321 remains grounded at the airport as of August 11, 2020.
The last time a wing slat went missing mid-flight did not end without a hitch. Back in 1979, Trans World Airlines performed a domestic flight TWA 841 from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York to Minneapolis (MSP). About an hour into the flight, TWA’s Boeing 727 spiraled out of control, forcing the aircraft to dive about 34,000 feet (10,000 meters) in just 63 seconds.
Crew onboard the 727 managed to stabilize the aircraft at 5,000 feet after the drop. The TWA’s jet suffered substantial structural damage and had to perform an emergency landing in Detroit. A #7 slat on the right wing was found missing after the flight. Luckily, no fatalities were reported, but eight people suffered injuries on board that day.
Correction: Early reports suggested that a whole slat of the aircraft was missing when it was, in fact, only a slat rivet.