Frontier Airbus A320neo Slides Off Runway In Colorado Springs

Heavy snows are thought to be blamed for the runway overshoot of a Frontier A320neo on Monday (28/10/19). The plane came to rest on the extended threshold and no-one on board was injured.

Frontier jet landing
Heavy snow a likely cause of a Frontier Airbus overshoot at Colorado Springs. Photo: Frontier Airlines

The crew of Frontier flight F9-2822 from Phoenix to Colorado Springs found themselves on the run-off tarmac of COS’s runway 17L on Monday morning. The cause of the plane’s excursion is hotly debated, although most theories cite poor visibility at the airport.

The incident took place following the A320neo’s landing at around 09:40 local time. The Aviation Herald reports that the aircraft finally came to a halt “with all gear on the paved surface of the runway”. It was, by then, 40 meters past the runway threshold.

COS was closed to landing aircraft following the event. The aircraft was eventually removed from the runway at around 11:00 local time. Normal operations were resumed thereafter.

Colorado Springs has, these last two days, been hit by a sizable blanket of snow. Snow started falling on Sunday night, and the intensity of snowfall increased throughout Monday.

Passengers on the flight were given a $400 voucher “for the disruption to their travel plans,” writes The Gazette.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier’s A320neo is one of several Airbus types purchase by the carrier amid a recent fleet modernization program. A year after delivery of the first of the type in 2016, the carrier placed an order for 134 more. The purchase was announced in a 2017 press release.

Frontier Airlines A320neo concept
Frontier was the second only US operator of the A320neo. Photo: Frontier Airlines

Since that $15bn order, the airline has become an industry leader in fuel efficiency, and it possesses one of the youngest fleets around.

The type involved in Monday’s incident carries registration N304FR. The aircraft is not thought to have been damaged by the overshoot.

Of the event, The Gazette quotes Frontier spokesman Zach Kramer who said the plane, flying from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, made a full stop in the “overrun section” of the runway. The company has not released any statement since.

We have contacted Frontier for further comment.

Probable causes

Observations relating to the accident and a Tweet from the airline suggest either poor visibility or excessive surface water on the runway were to blame. To Aviation Herald, one user even suggested the flight crew “lost track of where they were on the runway”.

Frontier Airlines jet take-off
Low visibility and snow on the ground are thought to have been contributory factors. Photo: Frontier Airlines

METARs from the time of the incident are not available, but later reports published by Aviation Herald suggest visibility as little as ¼ of a mile, an air temperature of minus eight degrees and significant snow.

In their Tweet, the airport’s management team remarked that ground friction was good at the time, but it considered reduced visibility to be the cause of the aircraft’s overrun. It is likely that contamination of the runway surface and continuing snowfall also contributed to the event.

Frontier’s safety record

Frontier has not yet had a fatal accident in its 22 years of operations, although it has had its fair share of in-flight and emergency “events”.

Writes The Points Guy, although the airline “ranks among the bottom in customer satisfaction, Frontier currently maintains a perfect 7-star safety rating from Airline Ratings.”

In comparison with the Denver-based LCC, Allegiant Airlines’ safety record is closely monitored by the FAA. Throughout 2015, 42 of the carrier’s 86 planes suffered mid-flight malfunctions, according to a Tampa Bay Times investigation. The probe concluded that Allegiant’s planes were, “Four times as likely to fail during flight as those operated by other major U.S. airlines.”

This recent Frontier incident is likely to be attributed to poor weather and the suddenness of the region’s snowstorm.