The right wing of a Cathay Pacific Airways Boeing 777 plane was badly crushed after it hit a floodlight pole at Rome airport on Wednesday morning, as the plane was being towed by ground staff.
A photo from a source showed the area of the wing known as the outboard aileron badly mangled, exposing crushed aluminium and composite material.
Cathay Pacific confirmed one of its aircraft “was involved in a towing incident in which one of its wing tips struck a standing pole”.
“The incident occurred when the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft was being towed by a truck operated by a local ground handling agent at the airport,” a spokeswoman said.
Separate images posted on a Rome-based aviation spotting Facebook page showed the wing of the six-year old Hong Kong-registered aircraft “B-KPY” firmly wedged into the pole.
An engineering source at the airline who viewed photos of the incident said the damage was fixable, but it would not be an easy job.
The plane was highly likely to be “grounded for a good while”, the source said, indicating the need for a complex repair job at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport.
The airline is the only one that flies daily between the two cities, and the outbound flight from Hong Kong usually arrives in the morning, with the return flight departing Rome at 1.05pm local time (7.05pm Hong Kong time).
On Wednesday, a notice to passengers due to fly on CX292 said “due to operational constraints, this flight will not be carrying passengers”.
Cathay Pacific said: “The airline is actively arranging alternatives for passengers to travel to their final destinations.”
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The cancelled return flight is likely to cause significant disruption for passengers.
The aircraft is one of the newly re-configured Boeing 777s, which has more seats in the form of a 10-abreast arrangement in economy class, allowing it to carry 368 passengers in all. It is one of a handful in service, which means getting a replacement aircraft will be tough.
Given that it is peak summer travel season, rebooking passengers on other flights may also prove challenging. The airline may try to send travellers to London and Paris, where there is more than one Cathay flight a day to Hong Kong.