DHL has repositioned one of its Boeing 757 which saw its cargo door open midair in mid-February. The aircraft made its way from Leipzig/Halle Airport to Budapest yesterday, likely to undergo further repairs. Considering the low altitude of the flight, it is possible the plane was unpressurized during this repositioning flight.
As noted by FlightRadar24 on Twitter yesterday, a DHL Boeing 757-200 made its way from Leipzig to Budapest yesterday. The aircraft, registration G-DHKZ, is the same plane that suffered a midflight door opening in mid-February. The incident caused significant damage and it was grounded in Leipzig for nearly three months.
The plane made its first flight since February 13th yesterday, flying from Leipzig/Halle Airport to Budapest Airport. The flight itself took just one hour and twenty minutes and was fairly routine. However, notably, the aircraft never crossed an altitude of 10,000 feet during its cruise. This signals that the cabin was unpressurized during this flight, possibly due to the damage sustained during the last incident.
When an aircraft cabin is not pressurized, altitude must be kept below 10,000 feet so that passengers and crew can breathe without supplemental oxygen. Such a low-altitude flight likely required prior approval from German, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian authorities before being allowed to fly.
Simple Flying has reached out to DHL to request a statement about this repositioning flight. The statement will be added here when it is received.
As mentioned earlier, this particular 757-200 suffered a rare incident a few months ago: a door opening while flying. The incident occurred shortly after takeoff from Leipzig, with the plane only reaching 5,300 feet before returning. The aircraft landed safely 15 minutes later, although some airframe parts landed a few miles away from the airport due to the incident.
No civilians were hurt during the incident and no cargo was lost either. The door that opened was a cargo door on the fuselage, one that is much larger than standard passenger doors. These outward opening doors make it much easier to load and remove cargo pallets at airports around the world.
An incident as rare and dangerous as this warrants extensive investigations and repairs before the plane can return to the skies. The German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation is currently investigating and will return its findings on why this occurred. Until then, DHL is likely working hard to return its jet to service and ensure similar incidents do not happen again.
As a major freight logistics company, DHL operates a diverse fleet of aircraft across its subsidiaries globally. The company flies 187 planes in total, according to Planespotters.net. This includes 41 Boeing 767s, 36 757s, 36 Airbus A300s, 23 737s, 17 777Fs, 13 A330s, 12 747s, eight ATR 42/72s, and one Tupolev Tu-204.
The demand for cargo has increased rapidly in the last year as overall capacity has fallen due to the lack of international flights. Due to this increase, DHL has leased dozens of aircraft to keep up with requests and operates a full schedule.