An American Airlines Boeing 737-800 returned to Miami on Saturday after suffering a suspected fuel leak. On the climb out of Miami, the plane experienced a fuel imbalance and suspected a leak in the right wing. That caused the pilots to abort the flight and return to the airport.
American Airlines Boeing 737 losing fuel on climb
Simon Hradecky first reported the incident in The Aviation Herald. That report reveals the aircraft in question was a Boeing 737-800 registered as N843NN. The plane was operating AA299 down to Montego Bay. AA299 is the mid-morning departure down to Sangster International in Jamaica. American Airlines advises there were 60 passengers and six crew on Saturday’s flight.
Flight tracking software has the aircraft pushing back from Miami International at 09:05 on Saturday morning. N843NN took off in a southeasterly direction, tracking towards Key Biscayne. Turning onto a southerly direction, the plane then tracked down parallel to the island before assuming a southeasterly direction and heading offshore.
Four minutes into the flight, at approximately 3,400 meters and traveling at 600 kilometers per hour, the climb stopped. At this point, N843NN was heading over blue water, positioned roughly midway between Key Biscayne and Elliott Key. According to The Aviation Herald, the pilots stopped the climb because they suspected a fuel leak.
After maintaining altitude for approximately eight minutes, the pilots began to climb again. The plane ascended to just under 6,000 meters. The crew reported a fuel imbalance and a suspected leak in the right wing. They established fuel was leaking on the ascent but none on the descent. The pilots made the decision to return to Miami.
A fair way west of but roughly parallel to Williams Island, the aircraft turned around and headed back. AA299 landed safely at 09:55. In a statement provided to Simple Flying, an American Airlines spokesperson said;
“The aircraft landed without incident and taxied to the gate under its own power where customers deplaned normally.”
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American’s N843NN has an interesting history
This is the second incident this year involving N843NN and a fuel issue. N843NN is a relatively young plane, only arriving at American Airlines in mid-2010. On January 4 this year, the same plane returned to Miami after the pilots reported issues with the fuel system. Like Saturday’s incident, the pilots declared an emergency.
According to The Aviation Herald’s historical records for N843NN, the pilots reported a fuel pump failure. In addition to burning too much fuel, they were developing a fuel imbalance and suspected a fuel leak. That flight, which was heading to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, also had to head back to Miami.
In 2020, N843NN was involved in another incident. But this one didn’t involve fuel. The plane was on approach into Miami, having operated a flight from Medellin, Colombia. Heading into Miami, there was a problem with the landing gear. The pilots did a go-around after a gear indication. Eventually, the aircraft did land safely, albeit with large numbers of emergency services in attendance.
Go back a further two years to May 2018, and N843NN was operating a flight from La Guardia to Orlando. On the climb out of New York, the pilots reported a problem with an engine. After halting the climb and working on the problem, the pilots reported an engine failure and were diverted to JFK Airport. Again, the aircraft landed without incident. Later investigations found the problem was a faulty engine oil filter.
Aircraft back in business, flying again to Jamaica
American Airlines told Simple Flying N843NN was taken out-of-service for inspection by their maintenance team on Saturday. The Aviation Herald notes the plane stayed on the ground for 53 hours in Miami. Since then, the aircraft has successfully re-entered service, operating flights to Jamaica, with a further flight scheduled on Thursday.