An American Airlines A321 that was involved in a take-off wing strike in April 2019 will not return to service. The decision comes 15 months after the incident. During that time, the plane has sat idle at New York’s Kennedy Airport. It is another chapter in an underreported incident that came dangerously close to a disaster.
The incident occurred on April 10, 2019. The leased Airbus A321 is registered as N114NN and has been with American Airlines for six-plus years. On the evening of April 10, N114NN was to operate AA300 from New York’s Kennedy Airport across to Los Angeles.
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Aircraft experiences an uncontrolled roll, clips sign and pole
As Simple Flying reported, the aircraft experienced an uncontrolled 45° roll when taking off. The plane’s wing clipped a sign and a pole on the ground. The aircraft took off and climbed without further incident. N114NN ascended to 20,000 feet before turning and making a safe landing back at Kennedy.
“There’s a good crosswind, but we had an uncommanded roll to the left as we rotated,” the pilot told ATC.
“We were banking, uncontrolled bank 45 degrees to the left.”
Back on the ground, the extent of the damage became clear, and N114NN has not flown since.
American Airlines A321 (N114NN) taxiing out at New York-JFK AP (KJFK), NY on flight #AA300 to Los Angeles was damaged when its left outer wing struck a sign leaving a large dent on the wing. Despite the damage, the flight took off and returned safely. https://t.co/8wvwuzhWpu pic.twitter.com/7fpeMDRtuI
— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) April 11, 2019
A Twitter feed tracks the aircraft’s progress since the incident
An airline insider on Twitter who posts as JonNYC has been tracking the progress of N114NN ever since.
Ben Schlappig from One Mile At A Time picked up on JonNYC’s recent comments that the plane will go to the scrapyard.
If the reports are correct, some larger aircraft components will either go back to Airbus or be donated. But the airframe will be scrapped. JonNYC made the claims on July 25 and has since doubled down, saying, “all this seems to be pretty confirmed.”
some unconfirmed details:
-A/C lessor agreed to swap N992AU (A/C 992) for 796 in JFK. don’t believe it will exit service but it’s just a paperwork exercise so AAL will actually own 796.
So now that AAL owns the A/C, they’re robbing the entire IFE system this week, and it looks..
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) July 25, 2020
If you backtrack through his Twitter feed, it appears efforts did get made to salvage the plane last year. In November, JonNYC said there was an Airbus team at Kennedy working on N114NN. But by January, he noted that the plane was getting plucked for parts, but there was still no official announcement made on its future.
On the weekend, JonNYC flagged a scrap/lease/return and said the aircraft would get debranded. Yesterday, he reaffirmed his claims.
A clipped sign, but could have got a lot worse
The incident and eventual fate of N114NN may prove to be one of history’s more expensive sideswipes of a sign.
Despite the aircraft remaining in the air for 30 minutes and landing safely, there are some reports that the April 10 incident could have ended very badly.
There were 110 people on board the flight. One unnamed source who was “briefed on the incident,” told CBS News;
“That was as close as anybody would ever want to come to crashing.”
The uncommanded roll occurred just as the Airbus was starting to take-off. As CBS News notes, the force of the impact bent the wing.
There is a suggestion the pilots didn’t anticipate the severity of the winds and did not deflect or apply enough rudder to keep the aircraft centered.
The National Safety and Transportation Bureau (NTSB) is formally investigating the incident. American Airlines is co-operating fully in addition to conducting its own investigation. Neither AA nor the NTSB have published their findings on the incident. When they do, it should make for some interesting reading.