Tornado’s past through the Dallas Fort Worth airport on April 3, 2012 bringing with it tennis ball sized hail pounding exposed aircraft on the tarmac. Estimates were 108 airplanes were damaged and were pulled from service causing a rippling effect across the country in restructuring arrival and departure scheduling for 50,000 travelers.
By Wednesday just over 90 American Airlines aircraft remained grounded with mechanic’s being brought in from Tulsa, Okla., and Abilene, Texas to aid in the repairs. They are fixing the damaged aircraft which ranged from moderate to major costing easily hundreds of thousands. Several aircraft could have sustained damage costing millions and with adding to the rising cost of fuel will certainly not help American’s ( AAMRQ +0.41% ) bottom line. Adding to these costs were hotel reimbursement for some stranded passengers, aircraft crews and maintenance people.
DFW Airport spokesman David Magana said, “more than 110 planes suffered varying degrees of hail damage. He said most belonged to American ( AAMRQ +0.41% ) or American Eagle, which together account for more than 80 percent of flights at the airport, but hail also hit eight United planes and six Delta planes.”
Southwest Airlines Co. said, “things had returned to normal at its Dallas Love Field base on Wednesday after more than 45 flights were canceled Tuesday. A spokesman said no planes were damaged, as Love Field dodged the worst of the storms.”
In a similar hail incident in Denver on July 2011, a hailstorm damaged 22 planes used by Frontier Airlines, some of which were sidelined for weeks and cost an estimated $10 million because of the storm.
And in the first quarter of 2011, when American canceled more than 8,000 flights because of snow and ice storms, it reported $50 million in lost revenue.
AMR Corp., American’s parent, recently reported that it lost $1.76 billion in the first three months of bankruptcy. It wants to revoke its union contracts, cut 13,000 jobs and freeze its pension plans. “Undoubtedly the cancellations are going to have a revenue impact on American’s operations,” said Bill Swelbar, an airline researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “But it is too early to tell because we don’t know how long these airplanes are going to be out of service.
“American said it won’t know the extent of it until it finishes repairing its aircraft. On Thursday night, the airline reported 55 planes still out of service due to damaging hail. All of American Eagle’s aircraft, however, are once again in the air. So far around 1,900 flights have been canceled at DFW Airport, the airline’s hub. On a normal day, American operates 1,500 flights out of the airport.”
An interesting first hand story from a pilot I received over the Internet. I tried to find the source, but couldn’t. As a pilot myself I give a lot of credence to this piece. The temper and language usage is correct.
“I was number two on L taxiway for 17R, on my way to TUL when it came through. When we left the gate the radar showed a small cell coming toward the airport, nothing bigger than a typical spring storm. There was a much larger storm to the northwest but not a factor. In the time it took to taxi from the west side to the 17R pad the little storm became intense. Light rain, some wind gusts, then heavier rain, some wind shear reported and then departures halted.
Shut down and let the passengers use phones being told it would be about 20 mins and we were completely surrounded by other jets. A couple of minutes pass and all hell broke loose. Heavy rain, gusty winds, the tower reported a microburst on the south airport boundary with 75 knot winds. Next the passengers on all the planes were telling the crews about the tornado’s (you know, because they can have internet and we can’t, as that wouldn’t be safe).
One plane checks in and the controller says he’s on the wrong frequency. He explains that the other tower was being evacuated and the told him to try this one. Tower then admits they are down to only a skeleton crew. Tower states they have a tornado on radar but don’t see anything, asks if any plane is facing south enough to see.
No one can. I call dispatch on the phone since no one is answering any radio frequency (ops, dispatch etc). I get a dispatcher who says he is the only one there; nearly everyone else is in the basement. He is a NWS weather observer and just took a look, he said not good, a tornado went across the south end of the field and another is on its way, only a little further away, hail is on the way and he was leaving for the basement. Then the hail began, little peas, then nickels and dimes until a sustained blast of golf balls with more than one tennis ball. And then it was over.
Ops called all the jets back to the terminal for maintenance inspections. We were told 63 airplanes were exposed to the hail. There was the ability to inspect only one MD-80 at a time since they didn’t have operators for the lift trucks (deicers). The 757 I was in suffered significant visible damage to every horizontal surface with actual punctures to the upper skin of the flaps and ailerons.
Off the gate to back on was only 1 hour 44 mins. The terminal was pandemonium. All flights for the next few hours canceled. The news was reporting all flights for the rest of the day were canceled. The airport ops told me that the instrument approaches (localizers?) on the south side of the airport were all knocked out, so only one runway had an approach available. The agents did a great job.
The hotel desk was probably the hardest hit; it took many crews’ hours to get rooms (you couldn’t buy your own if you wanted to, none to be found). Tomorrow is going to be a tough day in DFW. I would guess many planes out of service, lots of revenue stand-by’s and lots of dead-heads [pilots].”
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Written by Gary