An American Airlines plane lost part of its wing due to severe turbulence and diverted from its original path.
The right winglet of AA Flight 3729 fell off around Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday while weathering ‘moderate to severe’ turbulence at 36,000 feet, according to an FAA pilot’s report.
Winglets, which are an extension of the wingtip, reduce drag and boost fuel efficiency. They also provide pilots with cruising range.
The plane departed Charleston International Airport around 6pm. An urgent message was delivered to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport stating that the plane had ‘lost part of a wing’.
It was forced to make an unplanned landing at the Birmingham airport just before 7pm. The aircraft taxied to the gate ‘under its own power’, according to American Airlines.
‘Upon arrival, the aircraft was taken out of service for evaluation by our maintenance team and all customers were transferred to another aircraft, which departed BHM for DFW last night,’ American Airlines spokesperson Derek Walls told the Dallas Morning News.
Emergency responders met the passengers and crew members on the tarmac. No one was injured. It was not clear whether they were under serious danger during the flight.
While the passengers continued their journey to Dallas, the original aircraft remains at the Birmingham airport where it is subject to an investigation.
The flight was diverted because of ‘a possible mechanical issue’, the airline told the Daily Mail.
A passenger on the plane, Brandon Owen, shared images of the winglet, tarmac and the route on Twitter. He tweeted that it was a ‘surprisingly smooth flight and landing after the fact’.
Airplanes can fly without winglets, but ‘without them, the plane will have to deal with more vortex drag and will not be able to fly as easily’, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
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