Delta Air Lines 767-332ER, N191DN (c/n 28448/654) flying from Atlanta (ATL) to Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) encountered heavy turbulence while on final approach to EZE on the morning of Tuesday, January 21 resulting in the aircraft diverting to Montevideo (MVD).
As the aircraft closed in on Ezeiza International Airport, the captain of the Delta flight announced to passengers that the last 15 minutes of the flight would be "bumpy". The sky grew darker and the turbulence heavier and the aircraft abruptly broke off its approach climbing sharply into the sky. Soon after, the captain came on the loudspeaker and announced to passengers that the flight would be diverting to Montevideo (MVD).
Some thirty minutes later the aircraft landed at the Uruguayan airport but passengers were held on board for three hours as Delta is not authorized to operate to Uruguay and has no staff there of its own. Arrangements were finally made for the processing of passengers and they were taken off the 767-300 into a lounge area but another three hours passed before they were transferred to downtown hotels.
Delta sent another 767 to pick up the stranded passengers and fly them to Buenos Aires that evening.
It became evident at some point of the 767-300's flight, either on approach to EZE or en route to MVD, that the right wing's leading edge just outboard of the engine was damaged somewhat significantly, either through impact with an object (such as a bird) or a lightning strike. Some passengers reported seeing "sparks" come from the affected area while on approach to EZE. It is also not clear if the flight crew declared the emergency while still on approach to EZE, after the aborted approach, or enroute to Montevideo (MVD).
To the knowledge of the editor of this blog, this is the first time that a Delta aircraft has landed in Montevideo (MVD). The diversion airport for most flights from the United States to Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) is usually Cordoba (COR) located some 400 miles (650 km) northwest of Buenos Aires in central Argentina although Montevideo (MVD) is occasionally used too.
The following is a photo of the damaged wing: