TACA Flight 110
|Date||May 24, 1988|
|Summary||Dual engine flameout|
|Site||New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-3T0|
|Flight origin||Goldson International Airport
Belize City, Belize
New Orleans, Louisiana
TACA Flight 110 was an international scheduled airline flight operated by TACA Airlines, traveling from Belize to New Orleans. On May 24, 1988, the Boeing 737-300 lost power in both engines but its pilots made a successful deadstick landing on a grass levee, with no one aboard sustaining more than minor injuries. The captain of the flight, Carlos Dardano of El Salvador, had only one eye due to crossfire on a small flight to El Salvador, which was undergoing a civil war at the time.
The aircraft, a Boeing 737-3T0 (tail number N75356, serial number 23838), had first flown on January 26, 1988, and had been in service with TACA for about two weeks. On this day, the flight proceeded normally, taking off from Belize City's Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport and flying over the Gulf of Mexico toward the Louisiana coast.
The airliner was the 1,505th Boeing 737 manufactured, and was originally acquired by TACA from Polaris Aircraft Leasing in May 1988.
The captain of the flight was Carlos Dardano. At just 29 years of age, Dardano had already amassed 13,410 flight hours. Almost 11,000 of these hours were as pilot in command. The first officer, Dionisio Lopez, was also very experienced, with more than 12,000 flight hours under his belt. Captain Arturo Soley, an instructor pilot, was also in the cockpit, monitoring the performance of the new 737.
Investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that during descent from FL 350 (35,000 feet or 11,000 metres) in preparation for their impending arrival at New Orleans' Moisant Field, Captain Dardano and First Officer Lopez noticed areas of light to moderate precipitation in their path, depicted as green and yellow areas on their weather radar, as well as "some isolated red cells" indicative of heavy precipitation to both sides of their intended flight path.
The flight entered clouds at FL 300 (30,000 feet or 9,100 metres), the crew selecting "continuous ignition" and turning on engine anti-ice to protect their turbofan engines from the effects of precipitation and icing, either of which is capable of causing a flameout, where the engines lose all power. Despite flying a route between the two areas of heavy precipitation shown on radar, they encountered heavy rain, hail, and turbulence. Passing through 16,500 feet (5,000 m), both engines flamed out, leaving the jet gliding with neither engine producing thrust or electrical power. The auxiliary power unit (APU) was started as the plane descended through 10,500 feet (3,200 m), restoring electrical power. While attempts to "windmill start" the engines using the airflow generated by the plane's descent were unsuccessful, the pilots were later able to start them using the engine starters which were powered by the APU. However, neither engine would accelerate to normal idle speed, much less to a point where it was producing meaningful thrust. Attempts to advance the throttles only resulted in overheating of the engines, so they were once more shut down to avoid catastrophic failure. The pilots landed the airliner on a narrow grass levee at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in the Michoud area of eastern New Orleans, bringing the airplane to a safe stop.
Investigation and recommendations
NTSB investigators determined that the aircraft had inadvertently flown into a level 4 thunderstorm and that water ingestion had caused both engines to flame out despite their being certified as meeting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for water ingestion. The aircraft suffered mild hail damage, and its right-side (number 2) engine was damaged from overheating.
Initially, it was planned to remove the wings and transport the airplane to a repair facility by barge, but Boeing engineers and test pilots decided to perform an engine change on site and to take off from the adjacent paved access road. The 737 was flown to Moisant Field, where further maintenance work was performed. The plane was then returned to service. The plane is still in active use as of November 2015, flying for Southwest Airlines as N697SW since 1995.
In order to avoid similar problems in the future, the engine manufacturer, CFM International, modified the CFM56 engine by adding a sensor to force the combustor to continuously ignite under heavy rain and/or hail conditions. Other modifications were made to the engine nose cone and the spacing of the fan blades in order to better deflect hail away from the engine core. Also, additional bleed doors were added to drain more water from the engine.
The story of the accident was featured on the 11th season of the Canadian TV series Mayday in an episode entitled "Nowhere to Land". The episode was also repackaged for the Smithsonian Channel series Air Disasters.
- "Nowhere to Land". Mayday. Season 11. Episode 11. March 9, 2012. 4 minutes in. National Geographic Channel.
- "Southwest Airlines N697SW". AirFleets.net. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
- National Transportation Safety Board (1991-03-25). "NTSB Report FTW88IA109". Retrieved 2010-10-07.
- "N697SW - Aircraft info and flight history". Retrieved December 13, 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to TACA Flight 110.|
- Air & Space Magazine
- Description of the NASA Michoud Facility and Air Traffic Controller's account of the event
- Incident description at the Aviation Safety Network
- NTSB Synopsis
- NTSB Brief
- NTSB Final Report
- Federal Aviation Administration accident overview