On May 4, 2023, a Boliviana de Aviación (BoA) Boeing 737-800 (registered CP-3151) was performing scheduled flight OB736 from Santa Cruz (VVI) in Bolivia to Sau Paulo (GRU) in Brazil.
What appeared to be a nominal flight, ended in a bit of drama after the aircraft lost its winglet and suffered damage to the cabin roof during landing. From the external recording, the landing does not appear to be too particularly hard, but the pilots did float a bit before putting down the aircraft almost at the end of the touchdown zone of runway 10 Right.
A video from inside also showed a firm but not extraordinarily hard landing, but what’s most interesting is the sudden vibration heard right after, followed by the sounds of bits and pieces falling. Both BoA and a few passengers reported experiencing heavy vibrations just after the aircraft touched down.
Passengers shared photos, showing at least 4 ceiling tiles coming loose, decorative strips becoming dislodged, and dust on the floor from one of the broken panels. The left winglet was substantially damaged, with the top half torn off at the mid section (seen separating in the above video).
What caused the winglet to break apart?
It’s not uncommon for ceiling tiles to come loose during hard landings, but having a winglet shear off isn’t exactly common. During landing, the winds were blowing from a heading of 310 at 4 knots, indicating a 3 knot tailwind and 2 knot crosswind component.
With weather not being a troubling factor, and the landing not being extraordinarily hard, why did the winglet shear off? A few 737 mechanics have suggested that extreme vibration from shimmying could explain why the landing caused so much damage.
Usually associated with extremely soft landings (or butter landings as flight simmers like to call it), shimmying in the main gear could result in unwanted vibrations passing through the entire aircraft, potentially causing structural damage. Shimmying “generally” does not present itself during firm landings like this, but it’s still a possibility that best explains the amount of resulting damage.
A more thorough investigation should hopefully bring to light what really happened. Authorities would need to go through maintenance records to determine if proper structural checks were carried out, and if remedial action when taken if need be.
CP-3151 is a 21-year-old Boeing 737-800, and flew for a handful of airlines including Yemenia, Caribbean Airlines and NewGen Airways before joining BoA in March 2020. As of this article’s publication date, the aircraft still had not returned to service.
[Featured Photo: JACDEC/Twitter ]