China Eastern Boeing 777 Loses Part Of Wing In Flight

According to the latest news out of the US, a China Eastern Boeing 777 had to return to JFK after take off. According to passenger reports, a portion of the aircraft’s wing came off during the initial departure from JFK. A photo shared on social media supports this.

China Eastern, Boeing 777, Wing Panel
A China Eastern Boeing 777 had to return to JFK after a wing panel ripped off. Photo: Triple Tree via Wikimedia

Aircraft are built to withstand some huge forces. With this in mind, you can imagine the passengers’ surprise when they looked out of the left window. A section of wing maybe half a meter by half a meter had come off at the base of one of the speed brakes. As a precaution, the pilot decided to return to the point of origin so the problem could be resolved without developing further.

Flight MU588

China Eastern flight MU588 is the carrier’s flight connection between New York and Shanghai. The flight is scheduled daily and continues on to Fuzhou on the same flight number from Shanghai.

Usually operated by a Boeing 777 aircraft, the flight is scheduled to take 15 hours. This means a departure from New York at 16:25 local time. The aircraft then touches down in Shanghai at 19:25 the next day after a 7,400-mile flight as the crow flies.

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According to data from Flight Radar 24, the aircraft took off at around 19:00 local time, already around two and a half hours late. The aircraft departed New York to the North, climbing to 23,000ft. However, the aircraft soon started flying circles above where the States of New York, Massachusets, and New Hampshire meet. It is unknown whether the aircraft was dumping fuel at this time.

A 2.5-hour flight

After around two and a half hours, the Boeing 777  touched back down in New York. AirFleets.net reports that the aircraft is 4.7 years old having been delivered to the airline in 2014. The aircraft is fitted with 6 first-class seats, 52 business seats, and 258 economy seats. It is currently unclear how many people were on board the aircraft.

China Eastern, Boeing 777, Wing Pannel
The aircraft landed in JFK after around two and a half hours in the air. Photo: Flight Radar 24.com

Why return to New York?

The aircraft needed to return to New York for a technical problem, however, photos on social media appear to show that a portion of the wing was missing. Specifically, an L-shaped chunk right around where the left speed brake is attached to the wing.

Thankfully, it seemed as though the incident wasn’t too drastic as the aircraft was able to land without further incident, although the damage did look rather alarming. The aircraft has remained on the ground since the incident.

It looks like it could be a fairly lengthy fix, although, according to Flight Radar 24, the aircraft is currently scheduled to fly from Shanghai to Toronto on Thursday. It does, however, need to get back to Shanghai first. Simple Flying attempted to contact an airline representative.

Were you onboard MU588? Let us know your experience in the comments!

3 comments
  1. How could damage like that occur on take off? It’s on the trailing side of the wing, in an upward-facing position, which makes it difficult to explain on the basis of a possible bird strike. Part of a spoiler is ripped outward, and the plate covering its anchoring is also ripped off. It looks like an explosion of some sort…if you enlarge the photo, you can see ripped-out rivets. Scary!

  2. Water gets into the structure of the spoiler and subsequent freeze thaw cycles break the composite. -60F at altitude and 50-80F on the ground. Any water soaked into the fiberglass will swell and shrink until the parts are trashed, They are supposed to inspect for that… but as you said.
    The parts you see are the parts of the spoiler panel itself and not major structure. Not even complicated to fix.

    1. Pretty much like roads in Ottawa, Ontario. They do not inspect for that… and you experience constant “turbulence” while driving.

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