Aviation History: Tennessee Tornado Devastates Nashville-Tune

Early the morning of March 3, a devastating EF-2 tornado ripped its way through Nashville, Tenn., killing nearly two dozen people. Right in the middle of its path was Nashville-Tune Airport, home to a number of executive and general aviation aircraft. The airport is the largest for general aviation in the state, and has been closed indefinitely.

Upon first light, aerial images of Nashville-Tune Airport surfaced on the internet, showcasing the extreme damage caused by the twister. Several single-engine propellor planes have been strewn into piles or flipped over. Jets such as: Dassault Falcons, Bombardiers, and Gulfstreams are also piled on top of one another, surrounded by smaller, crushed airplanes. 

Amazingly, there were no injuries on the airport’s premises. Four hangars have been severely damaged and the airport’s only FBO (Fixed Base Operator) Contour, sustained serious damage. A local charter and aircraft management company, Harmony Air, suffered immensely. “We lost almost everything,” the company’s owner told AOPA. “I got a call at 3 a.m. telling me what was going on, and that the fuel trucks were on fire.” According to Contour’s website, the now-apocalyptic airport was recently renovated. 

Country music star Dierks Bentley landed at the airport just an hour prior to the storm’s violent ransacking of Nashville. It is unclear if his aircraft was damaged by the tornado. 

Tornadoes at airports are uncommon, but do occur on occasion. In early 2019, a tornado ripped through a major airport in Turkey. An Airbus A321 and Boeing 737 MAX fell victim to the storm’s wrath. St. Louis experienced a violent tornado in 2011 that destroyed three aircraft. Ominous videos uploaded to YouTube depict a dark and terrifying scene.

Denver International Airport is equipped with tornado evacuation shelters and tornado safety plans. In 2013 and 2014, tornadoes were reported to have touched down on or between active runways. 

It is highly unlikely many of the aircraft affected by Nashville’s tornado will ever return to fly. “Any aircraft caught in the path of a tornado will quite possibly be damaged beyond repair,” said SKYBrary. 

The airport is not expected to reopen immediately and the City of Nashville has asked citizens to avoid the airport. Governor Bill Lee has declared a state of emergency after thirty emergency workers have been injured. At least 140 structures were destroyed across four separate counties. Nashville International Airport remains open and operational with minimal damage, though flights may be delayed.

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