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A380 Spins CRJ in Taxi Collision at JFK

By Fareed Guyot, Manager – Electronic Publications, EAA 388642

JFK

JFK
The collision occurred in the area of taxiways Alpha and Mike. Courtesy: NOAA

JFK
This satellite view of the collision area shows the relatively short distance between taxiway Alpha and the Comair ramp. Courtesy: Google Images
Larger view

CRJDam
Damage shown to the left leading edge of the CRJ horizontal stabilizer.
More photos at: NYCAviation.com

April 12, 2011 — When you are taxiing the biggest passenger airliner in the world there is very little room for error, even at the world’s largest airports. Monday night at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (KJFK), an Air France Airbus A380 clipped the tail of a Delta Connection CRJ-700 operated by Comair Inc. The left wingtip caught enough of the CRJ to spin the entire aircraft more than 45 degrees to the left. There were no injuries; but where the collision occurred, at the intersection of taxiways Alpha and Mike, is a pretty tight spot.

Video of the collision shows the A380 passing behind the CRJ from right to left and its left wing seems to lift up the horizontal stabilizer of the CRJ (which has a high-mounted T-tail design). The CRJ’s right wing dips moderately and the nose swings to the left. Pictures later posted on NYCAviation.com show damage to the left side leading edge of the CRJ's horizontal stabilizer. The A380 also showed moderate damage to the leading edge of its left wing tip that carried inward to the first section of leading-edge slats.

According to the JFK Ground Control recordings (provided by LiveATC.net), Air France received a series of taxi instructions, and the crew acknowledged instructions to give way to an aircraft further past where the collision occurred. Suddenly a member of the CRJ flight crew said, “Comair 563…send the trucks, they just hit us at Mike.”

The CRJ was likely waiting on taxiway Mike on the north side of Alpha based on video of the collision, ground control communications, and post-collision coordination of the emergency response. Taxiway Mike begins as a high-speed turnoff from Runway 13R where it meets Bravo then becomes a perpendicular crossing taxiway between Bravo and Alpha. On the north side of Alpha is a small perimeter road for service vehicles followed by the Comair Ramp, which is actually a ramp area carved out at the end of Terminal 2. Comair loads passengers from the ground at JFK.

The JFK airport has two taxiways that make a complete loop around most of the passenger terminals. Bravo is the outer taxiway and is closest to the runways. Alpha is the inner taxiway and there are 284 feet between the centerlines of the two according to a March 2008 proposal by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to get a waiver from a distance standard required by FAA. The study regarded scenarios at the airport where an Airbus A380 and a Boeing 747-8 would pass each other on adjacent taxiways.

The length of taxiway Mike from the north edge of Alpha, across the perimeter road to the beginning of the ramp area, is very short. It is unclear where exactly the CRJ was stopped in this area and for how long. When given instructions to taxi to a ramp area, aircraft are not supposed to stop on taxiways unless they advise ground control ahead of time. The Delta ramp area may have been too congested for the CRJ to fully clear the taxiway.

In the case of the Airbus, all aircraft in motion are to ensure that their movement will not cause a collision. From the center of an A380 to one of its wingtips is 130.9 feet. The NTSB will look into the circumstances of this collision and future issues such as if Alpha taxiway is an appropriate route for the A380 and other larger aircraft.

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