American Airlines A321 Loses Wing Part

An American Airlines flight landing in Charlotte, North Carolina, has been temporarily taken out of service after an inspection revealed that a rivet was missing from one of the wing slats. The Airbus A321-200 completed its flight on August 10th without incident, and the missing part was only discovered after it landed. The plane was taken out of service and remained grounded for over 12 hours after the discovery.

American Airlines
An American Airlines A321 aircraft was found to have a missing screw in a post-flight inspection. Photo: Airbus

Missing screw or missing slat?

The American Airlines flight AA-1642 from Detroit, Michigan, to Charlotte, North Carolina, landed safely after 85 minutes in the air. The plane landed just 15 minutes behind schedule and did not report any incident while in the air. However, upon a post-flight inspection, the Airbus A321-200, registration N198UW, was found to have a rivet missing from a wing slat.

The aircraft in question was taken out of service, although supposedly for an unrelated issue. The Aviation Herald is reporting that a source confirmed that rather than a screw missing, the entire slat had gone.

However, an American Airlines representative confirmed to Simple Flying that It was one small rivet that was missing. Early reports were false.” The representative also confirmed that the aircraft is now back in service.

Wing slats and wing flaps
Wing slats and wing flaps are deployed during takeoff and landing to provide extra lift during slower speeds. Photo: Getty Images

A321 wing slats

Slats are extendable and retractable devices fitted to the leading edge of aircraft wings. The slats are designed to give an extra lift to an aircraft during low-speed maneuvers such as takeoff, approach, and landing. The slats are deployed hydraulically or using electrical switches.

The Airbus A321 aircraft has five slats on each wing. While it may not seem too severe for a screw to be loose, or indeed for one of five slats to be missing, the slats help pilots control the aircraft when landing.

A slat in the wrong place changes the flow of air over the wing resulting in an imbalance and can cause serious problems with the landing procedure. Luckily, the American Airlines flight landed safely.

Other wing slat incidents

Although the American Airlines flight may have landed safely with no concerns, previous flights have demonstrated just how dangerous the seemingly minor incident can be. A Trans World Airlines flight leaving JFK Airport back in 1979 lost a wing slat only one hour into the flight.

The Boeing 727 spiraled out of control, and the aircraft dropped 34,000 feet (10,000 meters) in 63 seconds. Luckily the crew managed to control the plane and perform an emergency landing into Detroit airport with just eight injuries and no fatalities.

American Airlines A321 Loses Wing Part
American Airlines also operates Airbus A319s on the same route. Photo: American

Similarly, a loose screw can cause a serious incident. Most recently, a loose screw found its way into a passenger’s food, which could have caused a serious health incident. Although, in this case, the aircraft itself was fine. The screw came from a catering company’s kitchen blender.

Yesterday’s incident seems to have been the best possible outcome for a loose screw. No one was injured, and most passengers will have no idea an incident even took place. We’d love to hear if you’ve ever found out about an incident after it happened. Let us know in the comments.