An Air France Airbus 380 was involved in a ground collision with a Comair CRJ700 Monday April 11th 2011 while taxiing at New York John Kennedy airport. The incident occurred around 8 pm as the Air France A380 flight 7 was preparing to depart to Paris with 520 passengers on board and Comair 6293 CRJ 700 had just arrived from Boston with 66 passengers and crews on board. Night time video shot of the incident depicts the CRJ 700 in an apparent stationary holding position near the terminal being suddenly jolted and spun around almost 90 degrees as a big Air France A380 is racing on the taxiway past behind it. Slow motion video replays clearly show the A380 wingtip striking the CRJ’s upper vertical fin where the horizontal tail plane connects.
In Monday’s scenario the A380 flight crew may have received little help from External and Taxi Aid Camera System ETACS. The five video cameras setup that feeds real time video images of the aircraft positioning to the pilot’s side screens is most helpful during ground maneuvers. With a central camera mounted on top of the fin and four cameras providing coverage of various obstructed fields of view underneath the fuselage, the ETACS system helps prevents the A380 wide main under carriage from exiting the runway when making wide, off-center line turns. As well collisions with ground equipment positioned in and around the fuselage can present additional risks. According to Airbus 380 Technical Characteristics Manual charts, a Airbus A380 pilot is restricted to a panoramic field of view from front to side of less than 121 degree. We can assume that during Monday’s incident pilots had no inclination to look away from the straight forward path in which the A380 was taxiing.
With a large 262 ft wingspan and a restricted field of view theoretically preventing the pilot from seeing the outer board wing extension past the outer engines, the aircraft unusual size seems to remain an issue. News articles also suggest that both pilots and air traffic controllers have yet to adjust to the A380 size and particularly its wingspan. In Air France case,the nearest aircraft with a comparable wingspan is the Boeing 777-300ER with 213ft. However the Airbus A340-300 which maintains some pilot type commonality with the A380 and has a wingspan of only 198 ft has been one of Air France pilot’s favorite for close to 20 years . On those assumptions, NTSB investigation will decide if ‘unfamiliarity’ with the A380 size is a plausible explanation for the incident.
For air France A380 program, the aircraft involved in this latest incident has been immobilized at JFK airport pending repair of the left wing outward portion sheared off during the collision. Air France flight 7 for tonight Tuesday April 12th 2011 departed JFK at 8:12 pm using another Airbus 380 replacement. The airline which is adding San Francisco in its A380 destination list this summer is expecting delivery of 2 more aircraft before June.