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Near-misses on ground inspire calls for anti-collision equipment on planes

September 5, 2012
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air travelPassengers traveling on Boeing 747s and other large planes probably don’t realize that their pilot cannot see the airplane’s wingtips from the cockpit unless he opens the cockpit window and sticks his head out of it.

That design deficiency – which may have been a factor in several recent instances of airplanes colliding while taxiing -- has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to recommend that large aircraft be equipped with anti-collision technology.

The NTSB recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) require that large airplanes be equipped with an anti-ground collision aid, such as an on-board external-mounted camera system, to provide pilots a clear view of the plane’s wingtips while taxing to ensure clearance from other aircraft, vehicles and obstacles.

Large airplanes include the Boeing 747, 757, 767, and 777; the Airbus A380; and the McDonnell Douglas MD-10 and MD-11.

The NTSB said that the anti-collision aids should be installed on newly manufactured and certificated airplanes and that existing large airplanes should be retrofitted with the equipment.

“A system that can provide real-time information on wingtip clearance in relation to other obstacles will give pilots of large airplanes an essential tool when taxiing,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “While collision warning systems are now common in highway vehicles, it is important for the aviation industry to consider their application in large aircraft.”

Recent on-the-ground airplane collisions

The recommendations follow three recent ground collision accidents (all currently under investigation) in which a large airplane struck another aircraft while taxing:

• May 30, 2012: The right wingtip of an EVA Air Boeing 747-400 struck the rudder and vertical stabilizer of an American Eagle Embraer 135 while taxing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (Preliminary Report: go.usa.gov/rPFh).

• July 14, 2011: A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 was taxing for departure when its left winglet struck the horizontal stabilizer of an Atlantic Southeast Airlines Bombardier CRJ900 (Preliminary Report: go.usa.gov/rnzC).

• April 11, 2011: During a taxi for departure, the left wingtip of an Air France A380 struck the horizontal stabilizer and rudder of a Comair Bombardier CRJ701 (Preliminary Report: go.usa.gov/rnzW).

The NTSB made the same recommendation to the European Aviation Safety Agency, which sets standards for aircraft manufacturers in Europe.

Recommendation Letter to the FAA  
Recommendation Letter to EASA

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