TACA Flight 110
|Date||May 24, 1988|
|Summary||Heavy rain and hail combined with lower air speed, resulting in flameout of both engines.|
|Site||New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. |
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-3T0|
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 adjacent to NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility, with no one aboard sustaining more than minor injuries, and with only minor damage to the aircraft. After engine replacement, the aircraft was able to take off from a road which had previously been an aircraft runway at Michoud, and the aircraft subsequently returned to service.
The aircraft, a Boeing 737-3T0 (tail number N75356, serial number 23838, the 1,505th Boeing 737 manufactured), had first flown on January 26, 1988. The airliner had been in service with TACA for about two weeks after it was acquired from Polaris Aircraft Leasing in May 1988.
The captain of the flight was Carlos Dardano. At 29 years of age, Dardano had amassed 13,410 flight hours, with almost 11,000 of these as pilot in command. Earlier in his career, he had lost an eye to crossfire on a short flight to El Salvador, where civil war was raging at the time. The first officer, Dionisio Lopez, was also very experienced, with more than 12,000 flight hours logged. 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 (about 35,000 feet or 11,000 metres) in preparation for their impending arrival at New Orleans International Airport, 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 (about 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.
At this point, the pilots began to prepare for a ditching, as no runway was reachable with the remaining altitude. Dardano lined up with a canal and prepared the aircraft for a water landing. During this time, Lopez spotted a grass levee to the right of the canal, and suggested that the landing be attempted there. Dardano agreed, and landed the airliner in an unpowered glide on top of the narrow grass levee. Adjacent to the levee was the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility industrial complex, in the Michoud area of eastern New Orleans, near the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
Investigation and aftermath
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 them being certified to 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.
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 or hail conditions. Other modifications were made to the engine nose cone and the spacing of the fan blades to better deflect hail away from the engine core. Also, additional bleed doors were added to drain more water from the engine.
Return to service
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. The aircraft was towed from the levee to the nearby NASA facility, fueled to the minimum amount needed and departed from Saturn Boulevard, a roadway built atop the original World War II-era runway. Following takeoff, the 737 flew to Moisant Field, where further maintenance work was performed.
After its return to service, the plane was eventually acquired by Southwest Airlines as registration N697SW. It continued in service until December 2016, when it was retired and placed into storage at Pinal Airpark.
In popular culture
- CFM International CFM56 engine flaw
- List of airline flights that required gliding
- "Southwest Airlines N697SW". AirFleets.net. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
- "Nowhere to Land". Mayday. Season 11. Episode 11. March 9, 2012. 4 minutes in. National Geographic Channel.
- National Transportation Safety Board (March 25, 1991). "NTSB Report FTW88IA109". Archived from the original on January 20, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
- "Emergency-shortened flight is completed". UPI. June 6, 1988. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
- "Boeing 737 - MSN 23838 - N697SW - Southwest Airlines". Airfleets.net. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
- "Flight history for aircraft - N697SW". Flightradar24. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
- "N697SW - Aircraft info and flight history". Retrieved February 15, 2016.
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