A China Southern A380 is likely to be sat on the ground for a while. Why? The aircraft was pretty badly torn up flying through a hail storm.
Aircraft are built to be pretty sturdy and capable of flying through all sorts of weather. Indeed, most airliners have inbuilt systems to defend against icing. While these systems are super helpful to prevent a build-up of ice on the leading edges, the protection ends there. Indeed, these systems are beyond useless when navigating a field of tiny flying ice balls. Unfortunately China Southern found this out the hard way!
The flight’s details
The aircraft involved in the worrying hail incident was a China Southern Airbus A380. The Aviation Herald states that the large aircraft is registered as B-6140. According to data from Airfleets.net, the A380 involved was the 120th manufactured by Airbus. As such, it is currently 6.7 years old.
The aircraft was operating a Chinese domestic flight. While the flight’s origin was Guangzhou, it was destined for Beijing. The flight departed around half an hour late at 0835, and due to the damage, the aircraft landed even later. Data from FlightRadar24.com shows that the journey typically lasts around two and a half hours.
China Southern Airlines Airbus A380-841 B-6140 (MSN 120 – active), flight CZ3101 Guangzhou (CAN) – Beijing (PEK), due to large hail during the approach to PEK. pic.twitter.com/MsLpZ1ho4K
— Capt. Ivan (@CockpitChatter) May 27, 2019
The hail storm
Data from FlightRadar24, unfortunately, does not cover where the hail storm took place. However, according to reports, the hail was encountered at flight level 371. Photos of the damage clearly show that the windscreen has been badly hit. The aircrew initiated a steep descent to FL167. It is unclear whether pressurisation was affected.
The pilots continued flying to their destination in Beijing. However, they appear to have spent some time diagnosing the problem by flying circles to the South East of the city with descent and climb. Thankfully the aircraft managed to land safely, albeit 22 minutes later than its planned time of 1125 local.
We imagine that the flight continued as planned, as the airline would find it easier to repair the aircraft at its main hub. Additionally, there may not have been that many Chinese airports equipped to handle such large aircraft.
There is currently no word on how long the aircraft will be out of action. However, looking at the images, it will probably need some substantial repairs. The windscreens will need to be totally replaced and although the nose-cone has received serious damage, the full extent is unknown as China Southern has covered it with two matching blue bin bags.
One thing is for certain; like Marlin and Dory probably should’ve avoided the jellyfish forest in Finding Nemo, these pilots probably should’ve avoided the hail storm.
Were you onboard the A380? Have you flown through hail before? Let us know in the comments!