Stuck Windshield Wiper Forces ERJ145 To Return To Chicago

On 29th April, an Envoy Air ERJ-145LR was forced to return to Chicago with just 11 passengers on board after a windshield wiper malfunction. Crews had noticed the problem during departure but believed it could be fixed during the route. However, that was not the case. After reaching 10,000 feet, the aircraft returned to the ground and was fixed at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

ERJ145 Envoy Air
Earlier this week, an Envoy Air ERJ-145 returned to Chago after windshield wiper issues. Photo: redlegsfan21 via Flickr

What happened?

On 29th April, an Envoy Air ERJ-145LR was caught in a bit of trouble after issues with its windshield wiper. At 21:35 UTC, the aircraft began its departure out of Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) operating flight AA3895, for American Airlines. The aircraft, registered N673AE, was departing via Runway 28R when the crew noticed issues with the windscreen wiper.

Despite detecting the error, the decision was taken to proceed with departure. Crews onboard the aircraft attempted to rectify the mishap after take-off; however, it was not possible. The aircraft climbed to a height of 10,000ft before it turned around. The plane, which should have touched down at Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF), instead landed on Runway 27L at ORD at 22:30UTC, resulting in a long night for the few passengers onboard.

Envoy ERJ145
It took 15 hours before the aircraft was back in service. Photo: BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons

Once it had arrived back in Chicago, maintenance workers were able to work on the problem. However, it was not a quick fix. The aircraft was not returned to service for some 15 hours.

A spokesperson from American Airlines told Simple flying:

“Aircraft can’t fly into areas of precipitation without a functioning windshield wiper. And it wasn’t a serious issue — the pilot never declared any type of emergency, but can’t continue into an area that was expecting precipitation. Passengers boarded a replacement aircraft and re-departed.”

Very few passengers on board

Despite a maximum seating capacity of 50, this ERJ-145 carried just 11 passengers. Perhaps that’s due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus, but whatever the reason, back-tracking to Chicago was certainly inconvenient.

Envoy ERJ145
Envoy Air is a regional affiliate of American Airlines. Photo: PlanespotterA320 via Wikimedia Commons

At this time, airlines should be even more conscious about saving money where they can. A plane with less than half the passenger capacity already represents a higher operating cost per seat. Turning back for a maintenance issue also adds an extra financial implication. Not only for getting passengers on another flight but also for jet fuel costs and staff payment.

Although the windshield wiper issue sounds minor, it was not one that should have been ignored. Correctly functioning wipers are integral to visibility. If the aircraft had encountered poor conditions, this could have been a much more severe problem.

All’s well that ends well?

According to Flight Radar 24, N673AE is scheduled to fly the route between ORD and SGF again on 4th May 2020. The issues with this aircraft are now fixed.

ERJ175 and ERJ145
This isn’t the first time an Envoy Air ERJ-145 has encountered a problem. Photo: Sla2931 via Wikimedia Commons

However, this is not the first time in recent history that Envoy Air has had a problem with its ERJ-145s. On 11th November 2019, we reported that another ERJ-145LR encountered problems at Chicago O’Hare when it skidded on ice on the runway. In the end, after aborting a first landing attempt, all passengers were safe, and there were no other issues with the aircraft.

So, how do people generally feel about the ERJ-145? Well, a few airlines are looking to retire the model because of customer dissatisfaction.

Inside the ERJ-145
The ERJ-145 is not the roomiest. Photo: Cory W. Watts via Wikimedia Commons

One carrier planning to do this is United Airlines. It says its passengers don’t like the aircraft. The 50-seat all-economy aircraft is indeed be lacking in a few more luxurious features like legroom and comfort. However, some passengers like this Business Insider writer enjoy the private-jet like the feel and the swiftness of take-off.

That said, Envoy Air has a robust fleet of Embraer aircraft that it relies on. According to Air Fleets, it has 174 of these ERJ aircraft, across the -145 and -175 range.

What do you think about the ERJ-145? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.