Pilot reported hydraulic problem from the air and requested space for emergency landing at 10 am; Nearly 6,000 passengers affected by the closure of the Juan Santamaría runway

By Yeryis Salas , Shirley Vásquez, GN correspondent, Ferlin Fuentes , Francisco Barrantes and Vanessa Loaiza N.

A DHL cargo plane that reported hydraulic problems while in flight made an emergency landing this Thursday morning at the Juan Santamaría airport. Once on the ground, the aircraft skidded off the runway, its tail snapped and part of its landing gear broke. On board were only the pilot and co-pilot, who did not register serious injuries.

In a leaked audio, the pilot is heard alerting the airport control tower: “Mayday, mayday, mayday, we have problems with the left hydraulic system. We have two souls on board. We have two thirty hours of fuel. We are going to prepare our aircraft to be able to make an emergency landing,” said the pilot.

According to the report from the Fire Department, at 10 am the Boeing 757-200 aircraft reported mechanical damage when it was flying to Guatemala, so it had to land on the runway at 10:25 am In the videos that have emerged, the plane can be seen moving down the runway and during the braking maneuvers, the aircraft makes a 180° turn and goes off the track. During this last phase, a lot of smoke came out of the plane when the rubber of the tires burned or due to the evaporation of hydraulic fluid.

Firefighters activated their code for emergencies with units from the airport, as well as from the Alajuela, Heredia and San José stations. “The aircraft lands coming from the west on runway 07, turns south on the kilo taxiway and skids leaving the taxiway towards the green area in front of the fire station,” the report states.

“When the aircraft touches down, initially the landing appears normal, but on the final run the aircraft slides to the south side of the runway, spinning and part of its fuselage breaking off. Our units immediately mobilized, placed ladders to remove the pilot and co-pilot from the aircraft (Guatemalans), who had some minor blows, but were in good condition,” said Héctor Chaves, director of the Fire Department.

Foam was then thrown on the site as a spill was expected on the left wing of the plane, which was the one that hit the ground the hardest. In addition, a small dam was built with heavy machinery so that the fuel would not reach the sewage system and the Costa Rican Oil Refinery was in charge of extracting the rest of the hydrocarbon to minimize dangers.

Luis Miranda, deputy director of Civil Aviation, explained that the plane took off from Costa Rica and was headed for La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. The problems were reported 56 kilometers north of the Juan Santamaría airport, at an altitude of 19,000 feet (5.8 kilometers), when he announced that he had to return to the terminal.

“Request to go to a waiting point located 25 miles southwest of Juan Santamaría to carry out verifications,” Miranda said. In this case, the pilot reported problems with the hydraulic system, which facilitates the operation of the flaps (ailerons), as well as the landing gear.

According to historical records, this Boeing 757-200, with Panamanian registration HP-2010DAE, had been in operation for more than 22 years. Since December 1999 it operated for Far Eastern Air Transport, with the Taiwanese flag, in 2010 it became Aerolease and in November of that same year it became DHL Aero Expreso. Given the damage sustained, the ship cannot be rebuilt and could be sold for parts only.

Total impact on the airport

Shortly before noon, the emergency was declared under control and the rescue teams were in charge of checking the cargo inside the plane. At the same time, operations at the Santamaría were suspended until 3:30 pm, while the runway conditions were assessed.

Aeris, the airport management company, reported that “it worked quickly in coordination with the respective authorities to address this morning’s emergency and facilitate the opening, as well as the conditions of service for airlines and passengers.”

Due to international aeronautical regulations, flights cannot be restored until minimum security conditions are guaranteed on the runway. In this case, the 757 got stuck just outside the fire station. This forced to modify the operation of the air terminal, because at least until Friday the southern parallel runway, which works for taxiing aircraft, was closed.

Ricardo Hernández, executive director of Aeris, specified at 3:40 pm that a total of 28 incoming flights were affected: 21 canceled passengers, six diverted to Liberia and a freighter that did not fly. In addition, 29 flights did not leave either, two of them cargo. The planes came from or were going to the United States, Central America, Mexico, Canada and Europe. This affected the itineraries of some 9,000 passengers.

Just at that time (3:41 pm) the first Iberia flight landed, coming from Madrid, and it was not necessary to divert to Panama. In the meantime, hundreds of users suffered inconvenience and anxiety not knowing if their flights would leave or lose connections.

Meanwhile, on the track, three emergency protocols are followed. First, after the incident, the interested manager secures the perimeter and guarantees the security of the area. Professionals from the Civil Aviation Incident and Accident Investigations unit immediately enter to collect evidence on site. Until this second phase is completed, the fuselage cannot move. For this reason, Hernández estimated, it is possible that the remains of the Boeing will be moved with a crane or tug until this Friday.

Jacqueline Arroyo, a resident of the airport, stated that she does not remember a similar event in the area.

“My neighbor told me that there was a rumble, we heard it but we didn’t think it was a plane. We thought it was a shock, but you’ve never seen anything like this here in your life. It is dangerous because if that had exploded we would all go here, the first thing we did was grab the little ones and I grabbed my dog ​​to run, “she said.

For her part, Yalitza Salazar Campos stated that she first heard the normal sound of a plane passing the runway, and then heard as if a bomb had exploded.

On Monday, May 23, 1988, Lacsa flight 628 bound for Managua, Nicaragua and Miami, Florida, had a failed takeoff and crashed a few meters from the perimeter fence of the Santamaría. Although the Boeing 727-100 aircraft was completely destroyed and partially burned, all eight crew members and 16 passengers survived. An unreported overload was the cause of the accident.