Delayed Over A Dent

June 2, 2010

in Airplane Stories

I was heading to CT, via Denver. It wasn’t until we had half -boarded the plane that we were informed that airport maintenance needed to check out the plane for a suspicious “dent.” They had to ensure it wouldn’t do anything weird up there.

Forty-five minutes later, after they had photographed the dent and consulted their manual, we were given the all-clear to fly. They weren’t sure where the dent came from, but they seemed to think it happened in Omaha!

Needless to say, I missed my flight and had an unplanned stayover. So far, none of the people I’ve related this story to have ever heard of a plane being delayed because of a dent – lucky me I guess!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Stewardess June 2, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Oh yes, any dent, ding, gouge, tear, leak, or missing/loose crews can happen any time. A "walk around" inspection is performed by the Captain or First Officer before every departure. Any 'abnormal' discovery can cause a flight delay.

If an abnormal "dent" (or other) is discovered, it will need to be addressed and inspected by the airline company maintenance, or a contracted maintenance tech, before the airplane is approved and released for departure.

More often than not, the problem is cosmetic, the airplane is "released" by maintenance, and we continue. The repair will happen down-line without taking the plane out of service.

Occasionally, the problem is not so simple and the plane is taken out of service. The company will do it's best to find a substitute aircraft. If no aircraft is available, the company will be forced to cancel the flight and try to accommodate flyers any way they can.


Dina June 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Well said, and thanks for the insight!

Delays suck – believe me, my last mechanical delay ended in missing a flight from SFO to Sydney and having to stay the night to catch the next plane – but really, I'd rather be delayed than die in a fiery plane crash. 😉


Peace Lover June 3, 2010 at 3:03 am

That sounds annoying. But then again if you want to fly safe they need to check these things out. Thats a nice picture of you Martha, you look a bit like Dolly Pardon!


Huck June 3, 2010 at 3:24 am

On Apr 21st 2010 on my way from Detroit to Dominican Republic via Miami on American Airlines, a ground crew dented the plane and the same thing needed to be done. Pictures were sent to the engineers but we were trapped on the plane for 3 hours before we left. Also missed our connecting flight by 10 minutes so had another 4 hr delay waiting for the next plane. Basically missed first day of vacation. The trip home was even worse…it took us 3 days to get from DR to Detroit and had to finally use Delta to get us there.

They said it was due to weather for the first leg but they had another flight leaving 15 minutes after our scheduled departure to the same destination but of course that was full. Spent $300 for taxi and hotel that night and just went downhill from there. Be happy you were only delayed 45 min but I feel your pain.


rerere June 3, 2010 at 10:08 am

Yeah, it could've been explosive decompression, and that would've been the end of you!


Josh June 5, 2010 at 5:24 am

A 45 minute delay caused you to miss your connecting flight? Looks like you booked your flights too closely.

Have a look at China Air Flight 611 to see what metal fatigue (dents etc) can do in a pressurised environment.


Gerard June 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

dents on airplanes ….. thats my job .

Right , the issue here is multiple .

We use the trem panting for a large dent . As you can imagine a dent really means that the structure is streched . If its big enough , with cabin pressure and de pressure it will pant , like a dog after a long run . A pant can lead to a fatigue crack which could in thoery take that plane down .

There is a book called the Structural repair manual (SRM) that we consult with . Each type of aircraft has one . It goes into such stuff like , how far the dent is away from certain internal structures , is it a sharp dent , a gouge meaning that material has been removed making the skin thinner again .

Then we perform a non destructive test (NDT) , to deternime if the metal is disbonded , (there is a lot of bonding use in structures , especially with the newer aircraft) if the damaged area passes all criteria , we can then release the aircraft back into service .

Depending on the damage , we may have to report it to the manufacturer , and allpy for a concession for example 200 flight hours , after which the aircraft must be repaired . Obviously we have to be carefull and work within the rules provided .

I have personally worked on large dents , that took 4 guys 21 days to finish , 2 working day shift and 2 on nights .

Im sure most people dont realise just how thin an aircraft shin can be . For example , on a 737 or something of simelar size , a shin may be only 0.063 thousands of an inch . A Dash8 would be 0.040 thou .

Not much . So maybe now you have a little more insight into exaclty what is involved and why .




Michael September 8, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Not sure why you don't have more thumbs up. That was a very detailed and insightful post that at the very least taught me a lot of things I was not previously aware of.


Mary December 25, 2017 at 9:10 pm

THanks for comments- first time delayed for a dent and was totally confused until reading this post. We’re 40 min last takeoff time and we’re getting food vouchers- not a good sign! Freaking catering truck hit the airplane door! Hope we make our connections in Madrid. AND it’s Christmas Day- ughh!


Concerned April 6, 2019 at 11:21 am

The above from Michael was informative but…Lately it seems like anytime our cross country flight is half full, it’s announced after boarding that there is a dent that needs checked, thus causing delay, or results in a cancellation after a couple or more hours of waiting. If we are booked to a different plane, it is always full capacity and we get the worse seats. I’m all for safety but this seems to becoming a trend lately. I have flown for years, several times a year in the past and have never been delayed for a dent. Is “dent” the new code word for something more seriously wrong so as not to alarm passengers or is it a code for “flight not financially feasible due to passenger count?
Husband used to be airplane mechanic in Air Force. He questions legitamcy of a real dent issue esp under these circumstances.


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