Slat Issue Prompts Santiago American Airlines Boeing 787 Return

An American Airlines Dreamliner flying from Santiago in Chile to Dallas Fort Worth had to return to Santiago on Sunday after a slat issue arose shortly after departure. The plane landed back in Santiago safely and all 149 passengers and crew onboard were uninjured.

An American Airlines Dreamliner returned to Santiago on Sunday after a problem with the slats. Photo: American Airlines

Overnight flight cut short by a problem with plane’s slats

Simon Hradecky first reported the incident in The Aviation Herald. According to that report, an American Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner registered as N818AL was operating American Airlines flight AA940 on Sunday, May 30. Shortly after take-off, an “issue” cropped up. The plane leveled off, pilots worked on the problem, discovered an issue with the slats, and decided to return to Santiago.

The flight, AA940, is American’s scheduled mid-evening departure from Santiago. The 4,890-mile flight normally takes 10 plus hours for their Dreamliner to cover. On Saturday, the plane was back on the ground in Santiago after just over one hour in the air.

According to aircraft tracking site N818AL touched down in Santiago on Sunday morning, having operated AA945 down from Dallas Fort Worth. The return flight to Dallas Fort Worth was due to depart at 20:15 (local time) on Sunday evening.


Flight levels off before pilots troubleshoot and decide to return

The flight departed on time before taking off to the south and banking west over the Santiago suburb of Rinconada. Near Lo Prado, the Dreamliner turned onto a more northerly direction. The aircraft was climbing steadily until just south of Colliquay, it leveled off at 11,000 feet.

According to The Aviation Herald report, the pilots became aware of a problem by this stage and requested permission to stop the climb. N818AL began orbiting over Ventanas as the pilots worked on resolving the issue. After about 20 minutes, the pilots contacted ATC, reporting a problem with the slats, and said the plane would turn back.

The flight headed southeast towards Tranque Ovejeria before turning south and tracking towards Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport. The Dreamliner was back on the ground by 21:19 local time.

The aircraft, N818AL, began flying for American Airlines in March 2017. These days, the plane operates across American’s international network, flying a few domestic connector flights along the way. This is the first recorded incident involving N818AL – as you’d expect from a young plane flying for an airline with a blue-chip maintenance program.

Passengers faced a 14 hour plus delay at Santiago after the flight returned. Photo: Getty Images

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Hurdles as American Airlines rebuilds in South America

American Airlines continues to rebuild its network in South America despite several hurdles. American fell out with its local partner LATAM in 2019 after Delta Air Lines bought a stake in LATAM. That left a big hole in American’s South American network. Then the worldwide travel downturn rolled around, and American’s presence in South America was a show of its former network.

More recently, the Dallas-based airline has pushed back into South America – with varying degrees of success. Their Santiago flights hit a roadblock in April when Chile temporarily closed its borders. The Dallas Fort Worth flights have since resumed, but American Airlines has delayed the start date of its new Santiago – New York flights until July.


Meanwhile, after a 14-hour delay, N818AL is back in the air. Whatever the problem with the slats was, American Airlines clearly resolved them. The aircraft took off at 10:49 (local time) on Monday morning, operating the delayed AA940 flight. At the time of publication, N818AL is approaching the United States coastline near Galveston.  The Dreamliner is expected to land at Dallas Fort Worth at 20:00 CDT on Monday evening.