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A Short Analysis into Boeing 717 N955AT Aircraft Incident

Looking at what went wrong, how common this is, and how dangerous it could actually be for travelers

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A crash landing of a commercial aircraft is a staple to the 2000s era action films, but most of the time these incidents result in cheese and crackers on the runway and luckily little to no damage to passengers and crew.

What went wrong with the Boeing 717?

On June 28, 2023 a Boeing 717 had a failure of the nose gear during landing at Charlotte Douglas International (WSOCTV). The photo below shows an aerial view of the aircraft at rest on the runway (Aviation Safety Net).

Delta Airlines Flight N955AT Landing

The direct cause of the failure will be investigated for some time, but after some digging, this isn’t the first time this aircraft has had a defect during flight. Back in 2003, according to Aviation Safety Network, the aircraft lost power to its left power control distribution unit which caused remaining electronics components to crash leaving the cockpit with no computer systems.

Within minutes the aircraft became comparable to commercial flight during the 1920s. Before the pilots began to smell smoke in the cockpit and all computer systems went dark, the landing gear was deployed which caused a warning system indicating the gear was not fully extended or locked in place.

The pilots landed based on visual sight and there were no injuries reported. Because there was an anomaly with the landing gear associated with the electronics of the aircraft, it is possible this past incident had a role to play in the landing gear failure last week.

How common is this type of accident

According to Bryan Macrae, a commercial pilot, incidents like this are extremely rare because there are multiple mechanisms in place to force the landing gear down (Dickerson). To better understand how common this issue is, the FAA did a 5-year study about landing gear failures. Of the total 1,878 events studied, 1,777 were categorized as unrelated to maintenance issues.

About 70% of the maintenance related events are attributed to improper maintenance and 15% are attributed to failure to follow procedure. A further breakdown of data is presented in the referenced link (FAA).

How dangerous is this type of accident?

Luckily, a landing gear failure historically does not often lead to fatalities. Nothing is ever absolute but typically the drag induced by the friction of the aircraft and the runway brings the aircraft to a stop before the aircraft slides off the runway or suffers fire damage.

Searching for fatalities on the Aviation Safety Network filtered by events taking place during landing in the United States going back to 2000, there wasn’t a single incident of fatalities involving a passenger aircraft on a runway.

In the worst case scenario, rough landing and aircraft rolling of the runway can lead to leaking fuel to ignite a fire or propeller blades shattering and penetrating the fuselage. Again, there is no record of this happening to passenger commercial aircraft that land on a runway without landing gear.


The Boeing aircraft involved with the landing gear incident had a related electrical issue 20 years ago but flew just fine until last week when a rare occurance of landing gear failing to deploy required it to crash land on the runway. The pilot’s training and experience resulted in the safe return of all passengers and crew.

To ensure proper quality, the FAA has performed studies to highlight the types of maintenance errors that cause landing gear failures. The FAA found from a study between 2002 and 2006, inadequate maintenece resulting in landing gear failure has a likelhood of 7 times out of 101, so about 7% likely (FAA).


  1. WSOCTV (2023), "Plane makes emergency landing at Charlotte airport; all passengers safe,"

  2. Aviation Safety (2023), "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 316147,"

  3. Dickerson (2023), "Pilot talks ‘extremely rare situation’ after Delta flight lands without nose gear,"

  4. FAA (2006), "Failure to Follow Procedures – Landing Gear Failure Course,"


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