Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

How NOT to Taxi an Airbus A-380

You may have already seen this since the video has appeared on several sites, including BBC news. I thought I’d add a few comments.

An Air France Airbus A-380 was taxiing out for departure at New York’s JFK airport last night when it’s wingtip contacted the tail of a commuter airliner.

Who was at fault? It’s not for me to decide, but I’d expect the majority of the blame to rest with the Air France crew. The RJ may have stopped early in it’s turn into the concourse alleyway and left it’s tail sticking out into the taxiway. That  could have been because of other traffic in the alley or under the direction of the ramp coordinator. I’m sure it will come out in the investigation.

I’m most amazed, though, by the A-380 crew. It’s always hard to judge speed when you are looking at a single point through a camera lens, but it sure looks like the A-380 was moving along a bit fast. It doesn’t appear that they made any effort to slow down and check their wingtip clearance with the commuter aircraft. You’d think that with a plane as big as the 380 you would always be concerned about wingtip and tail clearance – especially at a congested airport like JFK. You know that the plane is bigger than the airport was initially designed to handle, so normal taxiway markings will provide only marginal clearance. Maybe they expected the commuter to continue into the alleyway. Bad assumption.

If you are going to make an assumption about another person’s actions you have to make the assumption that they are going to do whatever will make the worst outcome for you. They’re going to stop short or miss a runway exit or taxi onto the runway. If you’re not ready for the worst, you’ll eventually find yourself sitting in some room trying to explain why you didn’t plan ahead.

 

Added 4/13/2011

Here is a link to the NTSB preliminary investigation information – including photos of the damage to both aircraft. The investigation is just getting under way.

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4 Comments

  1. JetAviator7

    The pilot in command is ALWAYS responsible for the operation of the aircraft and safety of passengers.

    BOTH pilots are responsible for this accident in my opinion.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    Your statement is correct, however the RJ pilot may not have even known that the Air France plane was there. We don’t have much of a time line with the short video clip. The A-380 would have been talking to ground control while the RJ would have been talking to the ramp controller for that alleyway. For all we know, the RJ had been sitting there for a while waiting for another aircraft to push from a gate and allow access to their assigned gate. In the mean time, the 380 could have come around the end of the terminal from a location out of site to the RJ when it pulled into the alley. When certain runways are in use at JFK the taxi route for departure can take you completely around the airport.
    The 380 showed no signs of even checking on wingtip clearance – it certainly didn’t slow until after the collision.
    We’ll just have to wait and see if the NTSB says it qualifies for a report of cause.

    It’s easy to second guess. Unless we were in the cockpit of one of the planes all we have is conjecture.

  3. Gregor

    Both pilots are to blame? Really, you think its that cut and dry? You know there is no review view mirror in the RJ right? I don’t think the RJ crew as much, if any, fault here. It would be like saying the deer was at fault for being shot by the hunter it didn’t see. Do you blame the motorist that gets rear-ended at a traffic light?

  4. If you read my previous comment, I’m with you. But, as I said, we don’t know what happened before the video starts. It could be that the RJ pilot was told to pull all the way into the alley and he didn’t .

    We can’t point any fingers until we have all the facts.

    tr

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