There are various reasons why a plane might be classified as a hull loss. Violent, fatal crashes that destroy the aircraft are perhaps the most obvious, but, sometimes, write-offs occur for more unexpected reasons. This was the case 13 years ago today in Zimbabwe, when a Xian MA60 turboprop had an animal strike.

The flight and aircraft involved

According to the Aviation Herald, the flight that experienced this occurrence was a domestic Air Zimbabwe service operating as flight UM239. It originated at Harare International Airport (HRE), which has since been renamed after former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. This facility remains the carrier’s hub today.

Its destination was Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport (BUQ), which serves Bulawayo, the country’s second-largest city. Air Zimbabwe continues to operate this route today, alongside low-cost carrier Fastjet Zimbabwe.

The Aviation Safety Network notes that, on November 3rd, 2009, the aircraft operating the flight was a Chinese-built Xian MA60 turboprop airliner that bore the registration Z-WPJ. Data from shows that it was just under five years old at the time, having arrived at the carrier brand-new in April 2005. The aircraft had 34 passengers and four crew members onboard for the flight to Bulawayo.

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Air Zimbabwe Xian MA60

Collision with local wildlife

The exact time at which Air Zimbabwe flight UM239 is difficult to specify, with different sources stating 19:15 and 19:36 as the time of the occurrence. In any case, the flight’s takeoff appears to have been delayed even before the animal strike, given that The Guardian reported that its scheduled departure time was 17:15.

In any case, the aircraft was about to take to the skies when it collided with five warthogs. These tusk-bearing wild pigs, which are commonly found in Zimbabwe, had somehow made their way onto the runway, with their impact with the aircraft causing its nose and left-hand landing gear structures to collapse.

This prompted the turboprop aircraft to veer off to the left-hand side of the runway, where it came to a rest with damage to its propellor and wingtip. By this time, it had been skidding for several hundred meters, and the wing was badly buckled. The most extensive damage was found in the outer third of the left-hand wing.

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A terminal blow

While reports concerning the incident don’t specify the fates of the warthogs with which the plane collided, animal strikes almost always result in the death(s) of the wildlife in question. Thankfully, the plane’s occupants fared better, with all 34 passengers and four crew members able to evacuate without any injuries.

That being said, the incident did prove to be the end of the line for the aircraft. Its damage from the warthog strike and resulting skid along the runway surface, which also saw the left-hand propellor impact the side of the fuselage, was so extensive that, as notes, the wreckage has stayed in Harare ever since.

What do you make of this incident? Have you ever heard of other instances of aircraft inadvertently striking warthogs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Sources:, Aviation Herald, Aviation Safety Network, The Guardian


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