Veteran Boeing 757-200 Makes Successful Emergency Diversion


Details are still sketchy on a United Airlines Boeing 757-200 flight that diverted for an emergency landing earlier this week after it suffered damage to an inboard leading-edge slat on its right wing. Flight 354 was bound from San Francisco to Boston but landed safely at Denver International Airport. The 165 passengers deplaned at Denver and later boarded another aircraft to complete the journey.

A passenger shot video of the damage as the aircraft landed, showing damage to the top portion of the leading-edge slat. His video was later broadcast on Boston 25 News. The passenger told the news station that, as he was leaving the arrival gate, he saw a United employee with what he described as a “bird-strike form.”

It was unclear how old the Boeing 757-200 is. The model was introduced into service with Eastern Airlines in January 1981. It remained in production until 2004 and continues to serve United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, as well as UPS and FedEx in cargo configuration. Boeing has delivered 1,050 of the 757s over that time span.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. According to Le Figaro, the passenger who spotted the break “after terrible vibrations,” was posting pictures on social media before the pilots knew.
    Strange world.

  2. That definitely isn’t a bird strike based on my close encounters with the avian community. Too widespread of an area. It looks more like water intrusion that froze and caused problems. Probably over several (maybe dozens) of flights. This is something a pilot doing a preflight walk around would not have noticed. Unless the slats were extended which isn’t normal procedure
    Without the pax noticing the problem.
    I suspect the crew was completely unaware of the issue and would have completed several more flights before some mechanic spotted the issue or another airplane in the hold short mentioned the problem too the crew.
    Depending on company procedure, configuring for takeoff and lowering the slats might occur on the taxi for takeoff . Some configure right after pushback before they start to taxi out.

  3. That was my thought as well. Bird strike would only have caused that if the slats were extended at the time of impact, which I would think the pilots would have noticed well before climbing to cruise altitude and flying as far as DEN. Something else happened here, I suspect. Sometimes things like this are not evident from the cockpit. I was once a passenger on a 737 on which the outer panel of leading edge slats on one wing were cycling, up and down with slats extended. I mentioned it to the pilots when deplaning, and they had apparently noticed something odd on a previous approach but had not determined the cause.

  4. Looks like a ladder was used to access the area and pressed on the slat when the mechanic climbed up and crushed that slat a bit. Then it came apart from air loads. Notice the heavier damage at both ends.

  5. Commenters on another site said there’s an AD on 757s to check for delamination on the trailing edge of the slats (AD 2017-22-12). The damage appears to be the reason the AD was created in the first place.