$25 Million Mistake? Virgin Atlantic Flight Cancelled In New York When Catering Truck Hits Plane’s Engine

Virgin Atlantic flight 26 from New York JFK to London Heathrow was cancelled on Monday after a Gate Gourmet catering company SUV collied with the engine of the Airbus A350.

Credit: u/NicotineRosberg

It appears that Gate Gourmet was somewhere they weren’t supposed to be. It doesn’t appear that anyone was hurt. I have to wonder if the driver was just distracted, or maybe failed to put the vehicle in park when getting out. Regardless, that vehicle shouldn’t have been there.

Interestingly, the aircraft G-VDOT has been in Virgin’s fleet for nearly four years but is actually eight years old. It was the second A350-1000 produced, and spent time as a test aircraft before going to Virgin.

List price on a new Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engine, which Virgin uses on its Airbus A350-1000s, is $25 million. It’s probably not a write-off, but certainly an expensive and time-consuming repair. I’d expect an engine change to get the plane back in the air, rather than grounding the aircraft for an extended period.

There’s an American Express banner in the background. Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic, and their corporate Amex they use for fuel has a $1.1 billion credit line. So there’s plenty of room on there for a fix to the engine.

However, something tells me that Gate Gourmet is going to ultimately be picking this one up, either directly or through their insurer’s subrogation.

(HT: JonNYC)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. He just nicked the cowling, that will buff right out ! On a related note, Virgin sure keeps their planes looking nice, G-VDOT looks freshly waxed !

  2. It may be a push back accident. We hear of those things happening from time to time like when wing tips engage. A look at the original photo seems to indicate little damage so it would be strange trying to say it costs the new engine price.

  3. Looks like damage to the thrust reverser translating sleeve – part of the nacelle. Engine itself is probably fine. But it will need inspections of the not-clearly damaged parts of the load path.

  4. The SUV collied with the engine. Isn’t that what collies do, bump into the animals they are herding?

  5. Delta has probably already sent premium replacement parts to JFK since they are an authorized Rolls Royce engine repair partner.
    The color on DL’s parts might not match VS’.

  6. Unfortunately for VS, partner and JFK hub king Delta don’t fly the -1000 yet and probably don’t have a Trent XWB 97 lying around.

  7. The vast majority of engines these days are power by the hour, which means they’re generally swapped out for a new engine and the old engine is overhauled for the next user. I’m sure Gate Gourmet has insurance for exactly this situation and it will get handled.

  8. Is that the right photo? Looks like a supervisor’s car and not a Catering Truck.

    Like others have said, not a major hit. Likely minor cowling damage. They will likely have to inspect the engine mounts for damage, but engines and mounts are designed to flex in flight during turbulence.

    Expensive, no doubt. 25 mil. Not likely.

  9. Salacious stuff, but no, the AMEX limit is not $1.1B.

    Stick to facts despite wanting to roil the waters.
    Delta’s financial instruments do not include a magic Net30 $1.1B facility for fuel (and engines).

  10. @Eastbound and Down – in fact this was disclosed in the airline’s SEC filings, it’s part of their Amex cobrand deal that Amex gets to earn interchange on much of the airline’s fuel purchases

  11. This might not be as uncommon of an occurrence as we’d like to think (or maybe it’s just become uncommon). In the mid-90’s, when I worked for one of the major airlines, I heard of several events where a catering vehicle hit an airplane. Two stick out in my mind. In one event, the driver said that since he had just driven underneath one airplane (an L1011), he believed he could drive under the other one (an MD88). In the other case, an L1011 that had just come out of its last heavy-maintenance visit was hit by a catering truck (apparently with the back end elevated) hard enough to bend the entire front portion of the aircraft.

  12. If I’m not mistaken, Delta has the largest authorized Rolls Royce repair facility in the world outside of Rolls themselves. I know that the engine test cell on property may still be the largest in the world. Considering that the actual “engine” is way smaller than the cowling that surrounds it (bypass air) I would guess that it is OK but… Yes, the engines are about 33% of the total cost of the aircraft.

  13. Win,
    Rolls Royce said it would not repeat the deal that got Delta the MRO rights on the engines for the A330NEO and the A350-900 …. until DL dragged its feet on buying the A350-1000 and then Rolls somehow managed to cough up MRO rights on the Trent XWB 97 which powers the A350-1000. Who knows what DL gave up in order to gain those rights but the -1000 is selling very well now so Airbus apparently was ready to see some increased sales of the larger A350 just as DL was willing to buy 20 firm copies and 20 additional options and Rolls apparently was helped to listen.

    and despite what some believe, the difference with the Trent XWB 84 which powers the A350-900 and the larger 97 is in the core, not the physical exterior size of the engine. A DL fan cowling would fit if DL has one on hand.

    the previously damaged aircraft is scheduled to leave JFK for LHR any minute

  14. In all fairness, an A350 is rather hard to see..and who’d expect one at an airport, near a gate of all things! Well I suppose that is why they’re called “accidents”, not “on purposes!”

  15. its ten to one nacelle damage only but will still require the engine to be started and run up, my guess is that the nacelle is repairable. The driver might be working for Uber next week though.

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