How NOT to Taxi an Airbus A-380

by on April 12, 2011

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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