Grupo Aeromexico, an airline holding company, headquartered in Mexico City that owns and operates Aeromexico, is investigating a possible drone strike that severely damaged one of its Boeing 737 jetliners as the aircraft approached its final destination in Tijuana, Mexico, reported Bloomberg.
Several social media reports and local Mexican news media confirmed by Grupo Aeromexico that Flight 773 from Guadalajara was in final approach (also called the final leg and final approach leg) to the airport when the crew heard a “very strong blow” to the aircraft. The pilots were able to land without further incident, as no passengers were injured.
Desde Tijuana nos hacen llegar estas imágenes del Radomo de un B737 de Aeromexico en Tijuana.— FsMex.com (@FsMexcom) December 12, 2018
Nuestra fuente indica que se trató de un impacto a un dron en la aproximación final. pic.twitter.com/YJhKVGKY4W
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
Local reports suggested that it was a drone that caused the terrifying impact and have provided numerous pictures of the badly damaged nosecone and radome of the aircraft.
“The exact cause is still being investigated,” Aeromexico said in a statement. “The aircraft landed normally and the passengers’ safety was never compromised.”
More photos have emerged on social media showing a large dent punched into the front of the plane.
Incidents involving planes and drones have become more common in the last several years as the number of consumer drones around the world has exploded.
Take, for example, the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said drone registrations stood at the 670,000 in January 2017. Fast forward to 2018, and the latest figures show more than a million consumer drones have been registered.
With more consumer drones in the sky, there have been 6,000 drone sightings by pilots, some of them by airline crews, through June, according to FAA data.
So far, the US National Transportation Safety Board has investigated one confirmed midair collision involving a drone. An Army Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter collided with a consumer drone near Staten Island, New York, in September 2017, causing minor damage.
It is only a matter of time before a consumer drone strikes another passenger jet, not on the nosecone and radome, but rather a direct engine hit, which would be catastrophic.