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Delta Air Lines Airbus A330-200 (N861NW): Three Incidents in One Week

N861NW riding a tug in Amsterdam (Photo: Aero Icarus/Wikimedia Commons)

On May 20, Delta Air Lines flight 135 was in cruise, near the end of its long-haul flight to Detroit from Amsterdam. While preparing for the upcoming approach into Detroit, the flight crew noticed vibrations in the right-hand engine of the Airbus A330. As a precaution, the flight crew decided to divert to Toronto.

Thirty-five minutes after first noticing the issue with the engine, the aircraft made a safe landing in Toronto. No passengers or crew were injured and the aircraft remained on the ground in Toronto for 32 hours before repositioning to Detroit, where it sat for another 16 hours before re-entering service.

On May 24, four days after the incident over Toronto, the same Airbus A330 was descending into Amsterdam on a flight from Detroit, operating as Delta Air Lines flight 136. As the flight passed through 38,000 feet the right engine stalled and the crew received numerous error messages from the wing anti-ice system.

The engine stalled two more times before the flight crew placed it in idle and it returned to normal limits. The airport was prepared for an emergency landing in case the aircraft wouldn’t be able to exit the runway upon touch down. Again, thirty-five minutes after the issue with the right engine began the aircraft made a safe touchdown at Amsterdam airport with no injuries to the crew or passengers.

The aircraft remained on the ground in the Netherlands for 29 hours before re-entering service.

On Friday, Delta flight 135 was in-flight west of Ireland enroute back to Detroit from Amsterdam. The flight crew received warning of issues with the oil pressure in the number two engine. The flight crew requested an emergency descent to 19,000 feet and to divert to Shannon.

The crew didn’t shut down the engine and made a safe arrival in Shannon without the need for emergency services and all passengers were accommodated.

All three of these incidents happened within a week, with the last two incidents occurring within forty-eight hours of each other. More importantly, all three of these incidents occurred on the same aircraft, an Airbus A330-200, registration N861NW.

The aircraft is only 11 years old and was delivered new to Northwest Airlines, and acquired by Delta as part of the merger in 2009. Although after each incident the aircraft was down for considerable amounts of time, the aircraft experienced similar issues with the same engine.

Although diversions and incidents involving engine issues are common across the world, to have three issues with the same engine on the same aircraft is extremely rare. Although Delta is one of the safest airlines in the world, with the last fatality occurring in 1996, 21 years ago, these incidents show that not everyone is immune to incidents. 

With safety always the top priority in aviation, these incidents highlight the need to constantly monitor the safety of each airline. This applies to even those with a strong history of safety. Although these incidents ended with a safe landing of each flight, next time may not be so fortunate. That is why in this industry, airlines should be constantly improving in maintenance and safety so to prevent incidents from occurring in the future.

Daniel Morley


  • Daniel Morley

    Daniel has always had aviation in his life; from moving to the United States when he was two, to family vacations across the U.S., and back to his native England. He currently resides in South Florida and attends Nova Southeastern University, studying Human Factors in Aviation. Daniel has his Commercial Certificate for both land and sea, and hopes to one day join the major airlines.

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