Following a runway excursion involving a Boeing 737-400 Freighter, it is fair to say that Montpellier–Méditerranée Airport (MPL) in the south of France didn’t have the easiest weekend. The incident forced a temporary closure of the facility, which has now recommenced operations after an impressive recovery mission.

A difficult recovery

Runway excursions are a mixed bag when it comes to the recovery of the aircraft involved. Sometimes, an aircraft may find itself stuck in mud and grass, with no more than a tow away required to fix the situation. However, Montpellier Airport’s waterside location, adjacent to a lake known as Étang de l’Or, meant that, for the Swiftair jet (flying for West Atlantic Sweden), things were more complicated.

Indeed, its recovery was a lengthy process, and required various pieces of heavy machinery. This was because, as seen in the image below, the front part of the aircraft ended up in the water beyond the end of MPL’s 2,600-meter-long runway 12L. As such, recovering it using trucks and cranes proved to be a multi-day operation. Indeed, the local government explained yesterday that:

“The lifting and towing operation of the West Atlantic Boeing 737 began [on Sunday] afternoon and continued until [Monday] morning at Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport.”

This photograph shows aSwiftair Boeing 737 after it overran the runway during its landing phase at night at Montpellier airport, on September 24, 2022.

The aircraft overran the runway in the early hours of Saturday morning. Photo: Getty Images

Back in action

The operation eventually proved to be a success, which has allowed the airport to resume its operations. Regarding this, the local government added that:

“The plane was able to be moved from the accident area to a safe area without damaging its structure and without generating pollution.”

This ultimately allowed flights to begin serving Montpellier once again yesterday afternoon. According to data from, the first arrival that touched down at the airport following its reopening was a (heavily delayed) Norwegian flight from Copenhagen, at 13:43 local time. Meanwhile, the first departure was an Air France flight to Paris CDG, at 13:55. The airport stated on Twitter that:

“After two and a half days of traffic suspension caused by the runway excursion of a cargo plane, the airport is gradually resuming its activities. We invite travelers to check the status of the flight with their company.”

Montpellier Airport Boeing 737 Rescue

The aircraft’s tire tracks were clearly visible in the grass as the recovery operation progressed. Photo: Getty Images

What’s next?

Now that Montpellier Airport is back up and running again, the facility will be keen to clear any remaining backlog of passengers and aircraft that were held up by its temporary closure. Its departure board looks to be in a much healthier position today, with very little in the way of delays and no cancelations.

As for the aircraft, it remains in Montpellier, with the Aviation Herald describing it as having received ‘substantial damage.’ It will certainly be interesting to see if and when the jet can be repaired and returned to service. Meanwhile, the incident remains under close scrutiny, with the local government stating that:

“The investigations of the Gendarmerie des Transports Aérien continue under the authority of the public prosecutor, as well as the investigative work of the Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA).”

What do you make of this incident? Did it impact your travel plans over the weekend? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Sources: Aviation Herald, Préfet de l’Hérault


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