An American Airlines Boeing 787 diverted to Kingston, Jamaica, due to a cracked windshield. The flight was scheduled between Miami and Lima, Peru when it was forced to divert to a nearby airport. No injuries were reported and a replacement aircraft was deployed to continue the journey from Kingston to Lima.
The incident occurred on American Airlines flight AA917 from Miami to Lima on Tuesday, 16th February. The flight departed from Miami International Airport at 18:44 local time, 45 later than scheduled. After takeoff, the aircraft continued south, flying over Cuba and reaching its cruising altitude of 41,000 feet.
However, an hour into the flight, at 19:52 local time, the aircraft quickly reduced its altitude from 41,000 feet to 21,000 feet in a matter of minutes. The plane continued reducing its altitude to under 10,000 feet as it requested emergency landing permission at Jamaica’s Norman Manley International Airport.
The aircraft reduced altitude to just under 5,000 feet before finally landing in Kingston at 20:37 local time. There were no injuries reported among the 43 passengers and 12 crew members, with the flight landed safely 55 minutes after the pilots first detected the issue, according to The Aviation Herald.
The emergency landing was due to a cracked windshield on the 787. In such a case, planes opt to land as soon as possible to prevent the crack from further spreading and potentially shattering while inflight.
The decision to reduce altitude quickly was also made to ensure that even if the windshield did shatter, the crew would be able to control the pressure change and continue flying. The low pressure and freezing temperatures can make it impossible to breathe at high altitudes, making reducing altitude critical early on.
It’s currently unknown which one of the four window panels on the 787 suffered the crack. The plane will now undergo maintenance checks to find the source of the crack and have the damaged panel replaced. At the time of writing, the aircraft remains parked at Kingston since the incident.
The aircraft involved in the incident is a 5.3-year-old Boeing 787-8, according to Planespotters.net. The smallest Dreamliner variant was delivered new to American Airlines in November 2015. However, the 787 has had issues with windshield cracks in the past too, with several airlines facing such issues.
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Air Canada, United, Ethiopian, KLM, Air India, and several other airlines have all reported windshield cracks while operating their 787s. The issues arose in 2014, soon after the Dreamliner first entered service, and has plagued the manufacturer for years.
However, it is possible that the incident on this flight does not have to do with any design flaw but could be due to a myriad of other reasons. For now, American will likely closely investigate the causes for this recent crack and safety risk.