West Atlantic Cargo Boeing 737 Damaged Landing In Exeter

A Boeing 737-400F was significantly damaged yesterday after a hard landing at the UK’s Exeter Airport. The aircraft was arriving from East Midlands Airport, also in the UK, and suffered overstress damage to the fuselage. According to reports, the cargo was unable to be unloaded due to the damage, but the pilots were unhurt.

West Atlantic 737-400F
A West Atlantic freighter was severely damaged in a hard landing incident. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia

West Atlantic mail plane severely damaged

West Atlantic is a regular visitor to southwest England’s Exeter Airport.  Known locally as the ‘mail plane,’ it shuttles freight and mail around the country, usually arriving in Exeter in the early hours of the morning with much of the region’s post onboard. Since the departure of regional airline Flybe, West Atlantic has been one of the very few liveries locals have been able to welcome to the airport.

However, it seems the cargo airline will have to manage with one less freighter jet going forward after a hard landing significantly damaged one of its Boeing 737-400Fs. G-JMCY was operating a regular rotation from East Midlands airport to Exeter yesterday morning, a route it runs daily shuttling post and goods up and down the country.

The short 35-minute flight took off from EMA at 02:01, arriving into Exeter at 02:36. However, the plane touched down very hard indeed, causing significant damage to the fuselage. A post-accident inspection showed significant creasing to both sides of the airframe.

Reports suggest that the cargo was unable to be unloaded immediately. This was likely due to the creased door preventing access to the cargo bay. Thankfully both of the two crew onboard were reported to be safe and well.

Just hours after the incident, West Atlantic dispatched another Boeing 737-400F to Exeter to complete the evening mail rotation. G-NPTX, which usually looks after the East Midlands to Edinburgh service, arrived at EXE at 20:51 yesterday evening. It has so far completed one and a half rotations between the airport and looks set to be the new southwest service for the time being.

The Air Accident Investigation’s Branch (AAIB) is investigating the incident. According to a statement on the government website today,

A team of inspectors are continuing to gather evidence on site at Exeter Airport where they are investigating an incident involving a cargo aircraft which occurred yesterday, 19th January.

Will the plane be repaired?

It’s doubtful that we’ll see G-JMCY back in service for West Atlantic, or any other operator for that matter. Damage of this extent usually leads to a hull write off, and given that this was a 26-year-old airframe, investing in the costly repair process is unlikely to be attractive.

Alaska Airlines 737-400
The aircraft entered service as a passenger plane for Alaska. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia

The 737-400F entered service as a passenger plane in 1994 with Alaska Airlines. Back then, it had 12 premium seats and 132 economy seats. After 15 years of service with Alaska, it headed off to Russia, where it was used by Aeroflot and Donavia until 2014. In 2015, it was converted to carry cargo and arrived with West Atlantic (previously Atlantic Airlines) in March 2016.

West Atlantic is a keen operator of the 737F, with a total of 14 in its fleet. Six are 737-300F, seven the -400F, and one is an -800F, according to Planespotters.net. It also has a single ATR 72. Now it seems the airline will have to manage with 13 737s in its fleet, although with demand for passenger to freighter conversions soaring amid the pandemic, it shouldn’t find it too hard to pick up an extra one.

Do you live in southwest England? Was your post late yesterday or today (mine was!)? Let us know what you think about this incident in the comments.