Remember the Aeromexico Boeing 737 that was hit by a drone? Yes? Well, it now turns out that it wasn’t. The Grupo Aeromexico SAB airliner that supposedly was hit by a drone last December was not hit by an unmanned aircraft at all. The damage to the radome or nosecone of the airplane resulted from a poorly executed repair, causing it to ‘likely’ collapse and crack as a result of changing air pressure during its descent near Tijuana, Mexico. Drones are often pointed to as the culprits but so far the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has only confirmed two cases.
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The Aeromexico Boeing 737 was not hit by a drone
Forensic experts who examined the nosecone or radome of the Grupo Aeromexico SAB Boeing 737 ruled out any collision with a drone or any other object, including birds according to a report from the NTSB.
Originally, local media reported that a loud bang was heard as the airliner approached for landing near Tijuana, Mexico on December 12th, 2018. In photos, the damage to the radome was clearly visible. The front-left side was caved in and there were cracks in multiple places. It was quickly concluded that a drone must have hit the airplane.
The National Transportation Safety Board became involved because the Boeing 737 flew through US national airspace during its final approach, according to Bill English, who oversaw Boeing’s review of the incident. Bloomberg reported that English continued to say that as it became clear that there most likely wasn’t a collision, the safety board continued to work in support of the Mexican investigation.
During the investigation, it was concluded that the radome had been repaired improperly in 2017. The dome that covers the nose of the Boeing 737, which is made of very thin materials, “likely” weakened over time and collapsed as a result of changing air pressure during the descent, Boeing said in a May 15 letter to the NTSB. No evidence of an impact with a drone to the nosecone was found.
Was it struck by a bird perhaps?
A birdstrike was also ruled out according to a Feb. 28 letter from the Smithsonian Institution’s Feather Identification Lab. The damaged area was swabbed and tested by the lab for bird remains. None were found.
Bloomberg mentioned that Mexico’s Communications and Transportation Ministry, in charge of the Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics that leads the investigation into the incident, did not respond to requests for comment.
Drones are often blamed but hardly ever the culprit
As we have learned in the past few months, and as has been stressed by DJI in their latest white paper: “Elevating Safety” many of the drone incidents have proven false or near impossible to confirm. Go straight to page 15 of the DJI report to read about many of these cases.
Right after the Aeromexico Boeing 737 incident, there were a series of drone sightings at the Gatwick, Heathrow, and Newark airports that caused major disruptions. However, no evidence of any drone was ever presented in each of these cases.
English said that most of the reports to NTSB of possible drone collisions with other aircraft have proven unsubstantiated. So far the safety board has only confirmed two collisions: the U.S. Army helicopter that hit a DJI Phantom near Staten Island in September 2017 and a small drone that grazed a hot-air balloon in Idaho last August.
Most of the reports to NTSB of possible drone collisions with other aircraft have proven unsubstantiated, English said. The agency has verified two collisions: a U.S. Army helicopter hit a small commercial drone in September 2017 near New York and a small drone grazed a hot-air balloon in Idaho last August.
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