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Monday, August 22, 2016

Jet does a Slip-n-Slide on Cuenca's Runway

Some of you may already know about this.

Some of you don't, and don't care either, as you have no plans on coming to Cuenca.

Some of you just may have plans to visit Cuenca in the near future, didn't know about this, and WILL care!!!

For all of you, I think you'll find the first part interesting, no matter what your plans.

Back on April 28th of this year, TAME airlines came in for a landing at Cuenca's airport during a very heavy rainstorm.   Normally, that's no big deal as it happens all the time (heavy rain) in airports around the world.


1.  Our single runway is 6,200 feet long, at an altitude over 8,300 feet, one of the highest altitude runways in the world servicing full-sized passenger jet aircraft.  Compare that to the shortest runway at Sea-Tac (Seattle Tacoma) which is 8,500 feet long and at sea level.  The 2nd runway is 9,426 ft, and the newest/longest runway at 11,901...darn near twice the length of Cuenca's runway.  The higher the altitude, the longer the runway needed.

2.  Our runway surface was lacking in drainage as well as overall friction dynamics.

Tame was flying an Embraer E190 which seats approximately 100 passengers, is 118 feet in length, and it's maximum landing weight about 97,000 pounds.

Compare this to what LAN (now LATAM) airlines flies into Cuenca (there's only 2 airlines that fly into Cuenca...LATAM and TAME).  The airbus A319 carries approximately 125 passengers, is slightly shorter at 111 feet, and has a maximum landing weight about 120,000 pounds.

Back to the landing...

It landed, supposedly touching down in the envelope where it should (ie; didn't touch down too far down the runway).

It landed, supposedly engaging the reverse thrusters on the engines, which essentially pushes air back the other direction to greatly enhance braking action.

It landed, supposedly using full brakes.


It kept going, and going, and going until it began to run out of runway.  In the video clip (link embedded below), watch very closely just as the plane is beginning to go out of viewable range. Wait....is that the cockpit coming around and facing you the viewer??  Yep, the plane went into a full 180 degree spin (when we were kids, we called that a 'Brodie'....one half of a 'doughnut').  It was going broadside down the runway and ended up pointing the opposite direction of the landing.  Can you IMAGINE being one of those passengers and your plane is in a spin?????

I'm NO EXPERT, but I used to have my pilots license and know a bit about aerodynamics, flying, takeoff, and landing.  The pilot ran out of runway.  It's MY BELIEF he did a full rudder to swing the aircraft around in, either an attempt to gain some use of the last taxiway, or use whatever momentum he had left to not plummet off the end of the runway.  If that 180 didn't happen, the aircraft would have plummeted off an embankment about 20 feet high, into the street, homes and businesses....surely killing many.


With the plane in full 'brodie mode', it ran out of runway pavement and onto dirt.  The landing gear dug in and the plane came to a halt, pointed in the direction from which it came.  A mere 30 feet from the embankment.   The tail of the plane was hanging out over the embankment.

Everyone got out.  Everyone was safe.

Remember the statistics about the plane and the others that fly in here?  What if it had been LATAM's A319 weighing up to 20,000 pounds more????

Now, the video:

After launching the webpage, watch the 2nd video down, the one after the image of the Reporter.

Click here for video of Tame Landing


In it's final position.

They were OUT OF ROOM!!!

You can see what WOULD have happened if the aircraft hadn't swung around!!!!
Notice the taxiway curving off from the end of the runway.  Was the pilot shooting for that?
Notice the cemetery just below the circle and slightly to the right.

Dug a trench to get jacks under the plane.

Looks like it's lifting a whale.

Now, it's parked near the terminal.  No one would know it had been in an accident by looking at it (black tarp is no longer on it).  But, it has been deemed a 'TOTAL LOSS'.
Here's the part(s) that puzzles me and ticks me off as well.

1.  The local/national news reported the airplane 'ran out of runway', everyone was okay....period.
2.  The international news had nothing.  You had to know about it, Google it, and find a link to the EC reports, otherwise you would not have known anything about it.  Many people didn't.
3.  Excuse me, but we see international stories all the time about planes that made an emergency landing because of a faulty indicator light, or a threat, or landing gear not down/locked, unruly passenger, etc etc.  But, a jet does a 180 on the runway, WITH VIDEO FOOTAGE, comes to a stop just feet from certain death, and everyone is AOK and the AP (Associated Press) didn't pick it up and report it?  Hmmm...makes me suspicious.  Can we say 'suppressed'?
4.  Obviously the all-important black boxes were not damaged and provided a ton of information. Was the airspeed too fast?  Did they touch down too long?  Was the braking system properly employed?  Did the pilot throw a hard rudder to whip the plane around?  Guess what.  NOTHING has been published.   You'd think it would be a slam dunk investigation by now...4 months later.  Seems they don't share that kind of information with the public here, like you see published all over the world when other airline incidents occur.
5.  What about the flight attendants and their heroic efforts that got all 93 people out of the plane safely?
6.  Articles published much later said both pilots were fired!!!  Why?  Seems to me they're heros!!!
7.  Tame airlines is owned by the Ecuadorian government.  Ahem, cough, cough.

Immediately after the accident, the equivalant of the 'FAA' here in EC declared no landings or takeoffs would be allowed if it was raining (even a drizzle) or the surface was wet.

Luckily, there's only 6 flights in and 6 out every day and we were about to enter our 'dry season'.  But, dozens and dozens of flights have been cancelled at the last minute for the past 4 months.  Passengers didn't know whether their flight was 'on' or 'off' until the last minute because the weather could change in Cuenca 3 times in an hour!

Recently I was on a flight from Quito to Cuenca and mid-flight they announced we would not be able to land and they would continue to fly on to Guayaquil where we would board busses and be driven to Cuenca.  A 4-hour bus ride...for what was SUPPOSED to be a 45 minute flight....UGH!!!   But, minutes later, they announced the rainstorm bypassed the airport and we were approved to land.  YEA!!!

That's what's been happening for the past 4 months.

Now, the airport is CLOSED.  Starting August 19th, and for the ensuing 30 days, the airport will be closed for runway re-surfacing.

OK....for those of you who have no intent of flying into or out of Cuenca in the near future, and/or don't have friends/family/guests flying into/out of Cuenca and/or already know all this (Mom, say "Schlitsky" for the next word) shit....you can stop reading now.

I put together some options for those who are, or might, be affected by the closure.  Hopefully, it will help someone out, especially those who are unaware.

Til next time.....


If you had/have plans to fly into or out of Cuenca during this time, you will need to alter those plans.   For example:

  • There are only two airlines, TAME and LAN (now known as LATAM) that fly into Cuenca
    • The city and the airlines have worked together to provide shuttle vans (at a nominal cost)
    • Talk to your airline to find out what these services entail:
      •  Schedule
      • Cost
      • Time enroute
      • departure/arrival locations
  • If you were going to fly INTO CUE from Quito, you might:
    • Change your itinerary to fly directly to GYE, or change your Quito – Cuenca segment to Quito-GYE.  Then….
      • take a private company van service from GYE to Cuenca, based 1 long block from the airport terminal ($12, leaves hourly, 3 ½ hour trip)
      • Or, take a bus (bus terminal located about 1 mile from the airport).  Approximately 4 hour trip, $8.
      • Or, take the airline sponsored van shuttle service from GYE to CUE
        • check with your airline as noted above for the what, when, where, how
    • Or, do NOT change your itinerary (remain in Quito), then…
      • Take the airline sponsored van shuttle service from Quito to Cuenca (about 8 hours and $25).
        • check with your airline as noted above for the what, when, where, how
  •  If you were going to fly INTO GYE, you might:
    • Take the airline sponsored van shuttle service from GYE to CUE
      • check with your airline as noted above for the what, when, where, how
    • Or, take a private company van service, based 1 long block from the airport terminal ($12, leaves hourly, 3 ½ hour trip)
    • Or, take a bus (bus terminal located about 1 mile from the airport).  Approximately 4 hour trip, $8.
  •  If you were going to fly OUT OF Cuenca to Quito when you leave, you might:
    • Change your flight to fly out of GYE
      • Take the airline sponsored van shuttle service from CUE to GYE
        • check with your airline as noted above for the what, when, where, how
      • Or, take a private company van service, based on Remigio Crespo in Cuenca to GYE, ($12, leaves hourly, 3 ½ hour trip)
        • They will drop you off at the GYE airport
      • Or, take a bus from CUE to GYE.  Approximately 4 hour trip, $8.
    • Or, take the airline sponsored van shuttle service from Cuenca directly to Quito (about 8 hours and $25.
      • check with your airline as noted above for the what, when, where, how
If your plans are impacted such that it will require you to overnight in either Quito or GYE before being able to continue on, I can recommend the following accommodations:
  • In GYE
    • Inn Garzota
    • http://www.hotelgarzotainn.com/index2.html
    • Directly across the street from the GYE airport terminal
    • Very clean, modern, breakfast included, AC throughout the building, Wifi
    • Cost is much less than other nearby hotels such as Holiday Inn, Sheraton, Hilton, etc
  • In Quito (UIO)
    •  Quito Airport Suites
    • http://airporthotelquito.com/
    •  Less than 10 minutes from the airport terminal
    • Shuttle provided (small cost, must be pre-arranged)
    • Very clean and inexpensive
    • Breakfast included, WiFi
    • If an overnight stay is not needed, but you have a long layover in Quito, QAS has a day-rate that allows you to use a room to rest, freshen up, shower, etc.
    • Note:  Quito’s new airport is located in the boonies, about 40 minutes from Quito proper.  Many hotels still advertise they are located close to the airport, but it may be the OLD airport which was located right inside the city.  Fix-rate taxi’s cost about $25 to take you between Quito proper and the new airport. There are only a handful of accommodations located near the NEW airport.

About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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