South Korea’s Transport Ministry has launched an investigation into an incident at Busan Airport last week. A Jeju Air Boeing 737 sustained some minor damage on landing in Busan last week. It’s not the incident itself that’s caught the Transport Ministry’s eye. Rather, they are unimpressed the aircraft operated another service before the damage was detected.
Jeju Air Boeing 737 wingtip hits runway when landing
According to a report by Simon Hradecky in The Aviation Herald, a Jeju Air Boeing 737-800 (registration HL8322) was landing at Busan’s Gimhae International Airport last Wednesday when its left wingtip struck the runway.
The Boeing 737-800 was flying between Seoul’s Gimpo Airport and Busan, operating Jeju Air flight 7C264. That’s the daily 11:10 departure. On Wednesday, March 10, 138 passengers and crew were onboard.
The Aviation Herald report indicates the aircraft rolled left just before touchdown, and the left wingtip touched the runway. The pilots aborted the landing. The Boeing climbed to 5,000 feet, circled, and came in for another landing.
Here the story gets interesting. The Aviation Herald reports HL8322 landed without incident. The aircraft was checked over by Jeju Air maintenance crews and cleared to fly. However, The Korean Herald reported the aircraft was roughly landed on the second attempt and caused further damage to the wingtip.
Either way, after just 90 minutes on the ground, HL8322 was back in the air, ferrying another 158 passengers and crew back to Seoul as Jeju Air flight 7C265. When the aircraft landed there, further inspections by Seoul-based maintenance staff spotted damage to the aircraft’s left winglet.
South Korea’s Transport Ministry to investigate
That’s raised questions about the thoroughness of the inspection in Busan and the haste with which the plane was cleared to fly. What’s also raised the alarm is that this was the second time in two days a Jeju Air aircraft was damaged, and no-one seemed to notice.
“Jeju Air had a similar accident on March 8, which means it flew without being aware of damage to its plane for the second time in a row, and we are taking this matter seriously,” a South Korean transport official told The Korean Herald.
On March 8, a Jeju Air Boeing bumped into a Seoul Air aircraft while on the ground. The Jeju Air aircraft suffered some scratches, and the Seoul Air plane reportedly received a slightly bent tailplane. But both planes were back in the air a little too soon for South Korean Transport Ministry officials.
South Korean low-cost carrier with a solid safety record
Jeju Air is South Korea’s biggest low-cost airline. Aviation database Planespotters.net has it operating 43 Boeing 737-800s. The airline’s website says it flies around 87 routes. That includes around South Korea and international services as far afield as Guam.
Since starting operations in 2005, Jeju Air has never experienced a fatality during an incident. But since its inception, the airline has experienced several relatively minor incidents. The most serious was in 2007 when a Jeju Air Bombardier Q400 skidded off the runway after landing in Busan. That was caused by the left landing gear collapsing. Six passengers sustained minor injuries.
The last incident involving a Jeju Air aircraft and a landing was in late 2018. One of the right-hand main tires burst on a Jeju Air Boeing 737-800 shortly after landing. The aircraft managed to stop just shy of the shorthold line.
While last week’s incidents were relatively minor, it’s the cursory inspections and speed with which the aircraft were released to fly that’s prompted an investigation by South Korea’s Transport Ministry.