Broken Down Plane on Runway Shuts Down El Dorado Airport for Hours
A cargo plane’s landing gear was destroyed when touching down at Bogotá’s El Dorado airport late Tuesday and left the broken-down aircraft stranded on the runway all night, disrupting operations for some 12 hours at Colombia’s largest airport. An AerCaribe Boeing 737 broke its left landing gear as it arrived a little after midnight in an awkward landing that also caused the right tires to blow.
Though nobody was hurt in the scare, officials were unable to get the aircraft off the runway for hours. Major delays and congestion left passengers waiting for their departures or connecting routes throughout the morning.
The prolonged shutdown forced some flights, including international routes coming from New York, London and São Paulo, to be diverted to other airports. One business traveler on a Bogotá-to-Barranquilla flight that was scheduled to take off at 8:30 am didn’t end up leaving the capital until noon.
Photo: Busted landing gear on an AerCaribe cargo plane left El Dorado airport paralyzed for hours and frustrated thousands of delayed travelers. (Credit: Aerocivil)
During the situation, the nation’s aviation regulator Aerocivil announced that it would tow the aircraft to a “secure zone without structurally affecting it because, at the time of landing, a rotation of 150 degrees occurred to the landing gear, and it is necessary to replace the landing gear to avoid further damage.”
According to Avianca, the nation’s largest airline, the north runway reopened at 6 am, although maintenance-related restrictions prevented large aircraft, like the Boeing 787-8 and Airbus A330, from operating. The runway is typically 3,800 meters, but planned maintenance meant that only 2,600 meters were usable at the time, said the airline.
This incident followed another high-profile mishap at El Dorado two days earlier when more than 100 passengers were forced to evacuate a Viva Colombia plane at the gate when it began smoking, according to the Daily Mail. The HK5164 Airbus operated by Colombia’s leading discount airline had a brake malfunction that caused smoke to start rising from its fuselage.
After the potentially catastrophic issue was identified, an emergency exit began that included travelers jumping down the aircraft’s rear emergency slides. Nobody was harmed, and unlike the AerCaribe landing gear problem, it did not seem to cause a significant disruption at the airport.
Both strange events came less than a week after El Dorado was forced to shut down for hours due to weather concerns. The capital’s airport was enveloped with fog that prevented an unknown number of flights — for hours — from either landing or taking off. While severe fog is common this time of year during rainy season in Bogotá, the occurrence was so severe that it reduced visibility to essentially zero and forced the overcrowded airport to close.
In the wake of the weather issues, Aerocivil announced that it would invest in an upgrade to the “Instrument Landing System” at El Dorado. The planned renovation is expected to take place next year and consists of improving technology on the runways that will allow pilots to land in the more-inclement conditions typical during rainy season.