A Boeing 737 passenger jetliner has possibly struck a drone while landing in Tijuana, Mexico, causing a considerable amount of damage to its nose. [Update: A drone strike has been ruled out. See below.]
The pilots requested assistance from air traffic control and were able to bring the 737 down safely without any injuries.
“The exact cause is still being investigated,” Aeromexico says in a statement. “The aircraft landed normally and the passengers’ safety was never compromised.”
Photos that have emerged show a significantly large dent punched into the front of the plane.
Desde Tijuana nos hacen llegar estas imágenes del Radomo de un B737 de Aeromexico en Tijuana.
Nuestra fuente indica que se trató de un impacto a un dron en la aproximación final. pic.twitter.com/YJhKVGKY4W
— FsMex.com (@FsMexcom) December 12, 2018
2018-12-12 Aeromexico B737-800 (XA-ADV) sustained damage to its radome on approach to runway 09 at Tijuana-Intl AP (MMTJ), Mexico. Flight #AM770 from Guadalajara landed safely. Unconfirmed reports indicate the aircraft may have hit a drone. https://t.co/L7aG5OlLDp pic.twitter.com/g0Mfpw1po3
— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) December 13, 2018
Incidents involving airliners and drones have become more and more common in recent years as the consumer drone industry has exploded. Drones reportedly struck passenger planes in London and Canada in 2016 and 2017, respectively, but close calls have regularly appeared in the news.
A study earlier this year also claimed that a direct drone strike to airplane wings would do massive amounts of damage, but drone manufacturer DJI called the study misleading and demanded that it be withdrawn.
In the US, there has been one National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into a midair drone strike: earlier this year, a DJI drone collided with a US Army Black Hawk helicopter and dented its rotor.
The aircraft designated Flight 773 has been in operation for over 17 years and is currently grounded as investigators look more closely into what happened.
Update on 12/17/18: While some big media outlets initially reported that the plane did strike a drone, the incident is under investigation by authorities and there hasn’t been a conclusion that it was a drone that caused the damage. We’ve edited the title and the article to reflect this.
Update on 5/30/19: Bloomberg reports that an investigation has concluded that the damage was caused by a poorly done repair on the plane that caused the nose to crack. The examination has ruled out a collision with a drone as the cause.
Image credits: Photographs by AFAC Aviação