Crew of wing-strike A320 was offered different runway

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German investigators have yet to release initial findings about the recent highly-public wing-strike incident involving a Lufthansa Airbus A320 at Hamburg, but the carrier says crew was offered an alternative runway before embarking on their crosswind approach.

Lufthansa flight LH044 had been arriving on a domestic service from Munich on 1 March, a day on which Germany was experiencing violent winds as a storm cell crossed Europe. German national weather service Deutscher Wetterdienst had issued warnings about the conditions and meteorological instruments at several airports were reporting gusts of 30-40kt. Data from Hamburg indicated gusts approaching 50kt.

Hamburg Airport was using runway 23 at the time of the incident, around 13:45. Weather information shows that the winds were from the northwest, which meant that an approach to this runway was subject to strong crosswinds.

A spokesman for Lufthansa says that air traffic controllers “offered to the pilot” runway 33. This runway, at 3,666m (12,030ft), is slightly longer and allows an approach on a more northwesterly heading. But the spokesman says that runway 23 was the one designated for landings at the time and adds that it is equipped with better instrument landing and guidance systems than 33.

“Just before the final touchdown there was a gusting crosswind from the side,” he says. The aircraft’s left wing-tip struck the runway, bending the wing-fence and causing minor damage to the wing surface, before the crew aborted the landing and executed a go-around.

The crew made a second attempt to land at Hamburg, this time opting for an approach to runway 33, and touched down without further incident. None of the 131 passengers and five crew members was injured.

Internet video images of the crosswind approach captured by enthusiasts at the airport clearly show that, just an instant before the main landing-gear contacts the runway, the aircraft rolls sharply, initially about 20° to the left, before the wing-tip touches the ground. The aircraft then drifts far to the left of the runway centreline, rolling a few degrees to the right to recover, before climbing away.

A spokesman for the German accidents investigation agency BFU says it is conducting an inquiry. But he adds that this process is still in the information-gathering stage and the agency is yet to release preliminary findings.

Lufthansa says the aircraft, registered D-AIQP, is a 16-year old example owned by the carrier. It has accumulated 36,200 flight hours in 30,450 cycles.