Avianca Airbus A319 Flight In Close Call Following Balloon Strike

On December 31, 2020, Avianca’s flight AV29 was descending into Bogota’s International Airport when it hit a balloon full of New Year’s Eve streamers. The streamers and the balloon got tangled on the airplane, which was able to land safely.

Avianca Airbus A319
An Avianca aircraft was involved in an incident when approaching Bogota International Airport. Photo: Getty Images

It could have been a disaster

It is safe to say that Avianca’s flight AV29 was extremely fortunate to be able to land in Bogota. The images showing the extent of the streamers entanglement across the wings, the wheels, and even the plane’s engines are mind-blowing.

While on the flight, the pilots didn’t call the incident an emergency. Despite that, once the aircraft landed, the airport authorities treated the situation as one. Firefighters arrived on runway 13L of the Colombian airport, and the Government has launched an investigation.

Due to the severity of the incident, Colombia’s civil authority issued a statement calling for people to stop firing pyrotechnic near airports. It wrote,

“Please contribute to the operational safety by avoiding firing pyrotechnic near an airport, because it can affect the air operations by reaching the engine or fuselage of any plane and create a fire.”

Avianca hasn’t issued a statement on the incident.

What do we know about the flight?

Avianca operated flight AV29 between Orlando and Bogota using an Airbus A319-115. The registration of the aircraft is N557AV.

It departed from Florida at 17:00, local time. According to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, AV29 was landing in Bogota at 20:15, local time. The aircraft, which was delivered to Avianca in 2012, was undamaged due to the incident. Onboard, everyone was also safe.

Avianca A319
The aircraft was heading in from Florida. Photo: Getty Images

Other incidents and accidents such as this

In the last few years, we’ve had news of many flying objects nearly crashing with commercial airliners. Whether these are drones, balloons, or even a man in a jetpack, they all pose a threat to commercial airplanes.

For instance, in 2019, an Air Canada Rouge flight suffered an incident with a weather balloon. The flight between Barbados and Canada was flying over Scranton, Pennsylvania, when it hit the balloon.

Fortunately for everyone involved, the aircraft had no damage and landed perfectly in Toronto.

A year prior, an Aeromexico’s Boeing 737 hit a drone while flying between Guadalajara and Tijuana.

Unlike the other incidents we’ve discussed, this led to some damage to the aircraft. The strike to the nose damaged the radio and communications equipment of the Aeromexico’s 737. The plane landed safely.

Drones sightings are on the rise

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US is worried about the increase in unmanned aircraft sightings from pilots, citizens, and law enforcement. It says the sightings have increased dramatically over the past two years, reaching 100 reports each month.

To make things trickier, pilots usually can’t see small drones encroaching on their airspace, a published study showed.

Avianca Colombia Getty
This isn’t the first time that airlines have had to deal with such issues. Photo: Getty Images

Researchers with Oklahoma State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University reported that certificated pilots only saw a quadcopter near them 30% of the time. Moreover, if the drone is motionless, they saw it three out of 22 times.

“Dangerous close encounters between aircraft and drones are becoming an increasingly common problem. Statistics on pilot sightings of drones continue to increase year over year, and what is being reported by pilots is probably just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of the time, unmanned aircraft are not being seen by pilots,” said Dr. Ryan J. Wallace, assistant professor of Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle.

With that in mind, the FAA has the “Know Before You Fly” campaign. The objective is to educated unmanned aircraft users about where they can operate within the rules. This type of campaign should be replicated in other countries, as drones become a booming business worldwide.

What do you think of Avianca’s near incident? Let us know in the comments.