Near Miss: Tornado Likely Came Close To Hundreds Of Parked Planes

The world’s busiest airport had a very narrow escape on Monday. A tornado, forecast to pass through downtown Atlanta, missed Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport by less than a mile. Due to the virus outbreak, the airport currently has hundreds of Delta planes parked on its runways which would have been completely exposed to the force of the storm.

Delta planes narrowly escaped damage from a tornado at a weekend. Photo: Getty Images

A narrow escape

In what Delta is probably calling an Easter weekend miracle, grounded planes at the airline’s Atlanta hub were saved from destruction by a favorable wind. A tornado, which wreaked havoc across the southern states and is responsible for the deaths of at least 30 people, missed the airport by less than a mile.

The tornado caused huge damage to the Monroe regional airport in nearby Louisiana. The level of damage seen would have been devastating for Delta had its planes also been hit.

According to Forbes, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the whole area on Monday. Although it has yet to confirm if a tornado actually touched the ground, debris was seen flying through the air near the main Atlanta airport yesterday.

Due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on aviation, the timing of the tornado is particularly important. Delta has parked the majority of its fleet on runways at the airport as travel demand plummets. Delta has a fleet of just under 900 planes. With around 600 of them parked on runways, it would be a huge blow for the airline if they were damaged.

Tornado season

The airline may be breathing a sigh of relief but they aren’t in the clear yet. Tornado season in Georgia is not over. The peak months for storms in the region are March, April, and May so there is still over a month before they can truly relax. Although the airline has some huge hangars at the airport, there are just too many grounded planes right now to protect them all.

The airline has spread out some of its planes to other locations, but as Atlanta is one of its main hubs and can accommodate so many planes, it is understandable that most planes are parked there. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much for the airline to do than wait and hope that any upcoming storms don’t do too much damage.

What happens to damaged aircraft?

If Atlanta does experience some more storms soon and Delta planes are damaged, the airline will have to decide what to do next. Sometimes the damage is so significant that the cost of repairing the plane is just not worth it. In this case, the plane is deemed BER, ‘beyond economic repair’, and will be broken down and scrapped. The airline could still get some money from selling the parts but, generally, this is the worst-case scenario.

Delta hub Atlanta
Tornado season is not yet over. With so many grounded planes, Delta could use this time to make repairs if it needs to. Photo: Delta Air Lines

However, if the damage is not too bad, the airline may choose to repair the plane. This, of course, takes time. But with travel numbers down and planes sat idle, the airline does have the time to make repairs.

Sometimes, the damage is so minor that an engineer may say the plane is still airworthy. In this case, the damage would be documented and the plane would return to service immediately. Any damage would be repaired at a later stage, if at all. But with so many planes sat on runways, it would make sense to use this time to make repairs.


Hopefully, Delta won’t have to deal with any tornado damage. The current state of the industry means any money they can avoid spending is a good thing. With the majority of their planes parked in one location, Delta must be thanking their lucky stars that the storm missed the airport. Hopefully, the rest of the tornado season will pass by without causing any further damage or loss of life.