That Sri Lankan Plane Didn’t Need Its Winglet

Accidents/Incidents, British Airways, Sri Lankan

If you’ve been watching the news over the last 24 hours, you’ve probably seen countless reports about the Sri Lankan plane that was *gasp* going to fly after it’s winglet sliced into the winglet of a British Airways plane. The reports, which apparently started with this Daily Mail story, make it sound like they were going to fly the plane with its wing missing. And if it wasn’t scary enough with text, they included this picture which appears to imply that the circled winglet belonged to the Sri Lankan plane.

07_11_06 srilankanwinglet

How much more irresponsible can you get?

First off, most airplanes can fly without their winglets. The story says that the plane flew the route a day later. That’s plenty of time to inspect the wing, make sure only the winglet was damaged, and then remove it. The plane can fly with just one winglet with no trouble at all.

Remember when a test A380 lost a winglet in Bangkok earlier this year? Guess what Airbus, the company that also manufactured the Sri Lankan plane, had to say?

“This sort of thing happens every day, in every airport around the world,” said Edouard Ullmo, Airbus’ executive vice president of sales for Asia Pacific.

“We can fly with one winglet or no winglets,” said Ullmo. “This is standard procedure.”

So there. The irresponsible journalists at the Daily Mail (and those who brought the story over here to the US) then put out that picture circling the BA wingtip. That was just the BA plane, not the Sri Lankan plane. But you know what? All you have to do is take that winglet off the BA plane and it can fly as well. Here’s a picture of that BA plane in-flight without that winglet. If you believe the sources in this thread, the plane actually flew the next day as well. I don’t have official confirmation of that, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Now, I don’t know for sure what happened with the Sri Lankan aircraft. Is it possible that the plane was going to fly in an unsafe condition? I suppose so. But that was a very public incident involving the airplane, and I’d have to think that there were accident investigators swarming all over the place. I would be shocked if they let it fly in an unsafe condition.

Is this really the best fake-scary story they could come up with yesterday?

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8 comments on “That Sri Lankan Plane Didn’t Need Its Winglet

  1. Cranky, here in the UK we’ve come to expect that kind of thing from the Daily Mail. I wouldn’t trust it to get the date right never mind the facts in anything. It is useful as emergency toilet paper, but that’s about all.

  2. That’s about what I’d expect, Jim. Unfortunately, more legitimate US media outlets like CNN picked up the story and ran with it. Ugh.

  3. Thanks for laying it out as it is Cranky, I’ve commented about this on other blogs, not having a wingtip isn’t a problem, the media has a lot to answer for.

  4. At the same time, if the passengers were promised a different aircraft and given the same one, missing a winglet, however nonessential this may be, won’t exactly engender confidence in the minds of the passengers.

    I’m not the best of fliers. Even though I realize that there was likely never an issue with the safety of the flight, it would probably have been enough to keep me from walking on that plane.

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