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Thu Jan 3, 2013, 02:30 AM

Airline says pilot wasn't warned of plane he hit at Fla. airport

Source: CNN

Spirit Airlines says a pilot who clipped the tail of another aircraft on New Year's Eve was not warned about the presence of the other plane.

The accident happened after Spirit Flight 403 arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida with 167 passengers onboard.

The wingtip of the Airbus A320 hit the tail of a US Airways plane, also an A320, parked in a remote stand away from the gate; no one was onboard that plane.

"Spirit was not advised by air traffic control of the presence of the other aircraft," the company said in a press release issued Wednesday night said. "Spirit has been informed by officials that the control tower had also not been advised that the other A320 was parked in such close proximity to an active taxiway."

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/02/travel/airplane-collision/index.html

17 replies, 2956 views

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Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply Airline says pilot wasn't warned of plane he hit at Fla. airport (Original post)
alp227 Jan 2013 OP
JustABozoOnThisBus Jan 2013 #1
TheMadMonk Jan 2013 #2
PavePusher Jan 2013 #4
bluevoter4life Jan 2013 #3
PavePusher Jan 2013 #5
bluevoter4life Jan 2013 #6
PavePusher Jan 2013 #7
av8rdave Jan 2013 #8
bluevoter4life Jan 2013 #11
PavePusher Jan 2013 #13
av8rdave Jan 2013 #14
bluevoter4life Jan 2013 #15
PavePusher Jan 2013 #16
bluevoter4life Jan 2013 #17
TheBlackAdder Jan 2013 #9
TheBlackAdder Jan 2013 #10
justice1 Jan 2013 #12

Response to alp227 (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 07:35 AM

1. Probably a dumb question, but ...

... isn't this why airplanes have windows? and co-pilots?

Is it hard to spot an A320 sitting in your way?

Or do these things taxi on autopilot? With GPS, or taxiway-embedded guide wires?

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Response to JustABozoOnThisBus (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 09:17 AM

2. Don't think wings can be seen from cockpit.

 

Pilot is told what path to follow and relies on ATC to ensure that path is clear.

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Response to JustABozoOnThisBus (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 12:35 PM

4. What MadMonk said.

 

Visibility from the flight deck of large aircraft is often rather limited, especially to the sides. Many planes, the pilot can't see their own wing tips from their seat, or even if they crawled up over the instrument panel. If you look up pictures of an A320, you can see that the cockpit windows don't wrap around to the sides very far, and the wings are highly swept to the rear.

When taxiing (done entirely manually) the crew is under the guidance of the ground-controllers (may or may not be located in the "tower") and marshalling personnel on the ground. Ground-control has a board/screen/etc with a map of where each aircraft is, and what type. Aircraft should be parked such that they don't interfere with adjacent taxiways and nearby moving aircraft. If they're unsure about clearance, they should send out spotters/marshallers to guide the moving aircraft visually.

If the taxiing aircraft was where it was told to be, then the crew is probably not to blame. Based on the incomplete information given, hard to tell who's a fault here, but I'm leaning towards ground-control.

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Response to alp227 (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 12:10 PM

3. From what I understand

The aircraft was parked at a remote area of the terminal, with it's lights off, as it was to remain there overnight. The USAirways, if it is parked where I think it is (I used to work at the Fort Lauderdale airport), was parked on the ramp, which, in air traffic terms, is known as a "non-movement area", which means ATC has no responsibility for aircraft maneuvering in and out of the area. All the tower can do, upon being advised of other aircraft, is issue a cautionary advisory to other pilots in the area. If this is the first the tower knew about it, they had no indication of a possible conflict. I think USAirways will ultimately be found responsible for this.

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Response to bluevoter4life (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 12:37 PM

5. There's a control room responsible for all aircraft movement on an airfield.

 

They give ultimate approval for any movement.

I'm leaning towards tham screwing up, but the evidence isn't clear.

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Response to PavePusher (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 01:03 PM

6. The control tower

However, at most airports (Fort Lauderdale included), the tower controllers are NOT responsible for aircraft on the ramp or in the terminal area (the "non-movement areas"). It isn't until they start moving on taxiways do controllers assume responsibility. The tower has no authority to say where an aircraft is to park. That is left up to airport management, and the airlines. Management allowed USAirways to park there, and may or may not have informed the tower. At Lauderdale, USAirways parks in terminal 3, I believe it's Concourse F. Frequently, the airlines will park an aircraft in a remote area overnight, on the ramp, outside of ATC jurisdiction. Lauderdale DOES have a ramp control tower, staffed by a private company, with no relation to the FAA, that controls movement of the ramp area. Theirs only has full visibility on the first two terminals, and partial visibility of a third. Where USAirways parks, and where this occurred is not visible from the ramp tower, and Spirit's terminal is completely obstructed so they would be unable to see it and inform Spirit. And, if it was late at night, the ramp tower is closed. I'm not saying the tower didn't screw up. Once the tapes are released and the facts become a little more clear, we will be able to further determine fault. The best thing though, is that both aircraft only sustained minor damage and no one was injured.

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Response to bluevoter4life (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 01:13 PM

7. See my post about Ground Control, above.

 

Every movement and parking of aircraft on major airfields is strictly controlled. Has to be, for exactly the reason of collision avoidance and jamming up taxiways and parking areas.

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Response to PavePusher (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 02:06 PM

8. That's not exactly true...

Many major airports have ramp areas that are the responsibility of the airline and their personnel. It's normally quite clearly delineated as to where you are and are not subject to ATC instructions. Some of these ramps have controllers that work for the airline, and some are uncontrolled. When taxiing outbound, there are specific locations where you contact ground control, and not before. The reverse is true when taxiing inbound.

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Response to PavePusher (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 03:51 PM

11. Fort Lauderdale has a ramp tower

Located on the very north side of the field, adjacent to the FBO's. These employees are NOT (repeat NOT) FAA, and do not work for the airline, but a private contractor, more closely affiliated with the airport management, as they are the parties involved with the contract. (NOTE. This pertains to FLL ONLY, as other ramp controllers at other airports are indeed airline employees i.e. MIA) Because of its location, every movement on the south side gates is uncontrolled due to lack of visibility. Once the aircraft turns off a taxiway, it is considered uncontrolled, are are therefore responsible for their own separation on the ramp, regardless of whether or not ATC can see the gates, unless specifically outlined in a Letter of Agreement between the tower and the airport/ airlines. Not every movement is controlled by ATC. Pulling into a gate and pushing back from a gate, unless it encroaches onto an active taxiway, is completely up to the pilot and ground handlers (the guys driving the trucks) to ensure they don't hit anyone.

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Response to bluevoter4life (Reply #11)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 05:10 PM

13. O.K., I see what you and av8rdave are saying....

 

Some areas are independently controlled.

But the end result is still that you don't move a plane without getting someones permission. Whether local area control or central airfield control, you don't move without clearance.

No-one enters the no-vis area without permission, and I'm sure you have to notify someone when you are out of that area, or have parked, and let them know where you're parked.

At least, that's been my experience in 22+ years of military aviation maintenance. If that is not the case, something is VERY wrong there.

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Response to PavePusher (Reply #13)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 06:59 AM

14. There are actually places (on major airports) where the ramp area(s) are completely uncontrolled

Our airline's ramp at Dallas/Fort Worth is that way (it went to uncontrolled in '05 - a lot less of our traffic there now), same with Orlando. Also Phoenix (for our airline, anyway).

The military was very different in that regard. I was never based anywhere where every inch of concrete on the airport wasn't controlled. But then, one of the biggest surprises for me when I went from the military to the airline was the way ground ops are conducted. The military would never have been able to handle the sheer number of ground movements we have at a typical hub airport. The airlines are moving a lot more metal a lot faster in a lot closer proximity in a lot more events per hour (OK, I know you Navy carrier guys will jump in on this one, but the rest of us never got all that boat stuff anyway). The other thing that drove me nuts at first was the number and proximity of ground vehicles running around the ramp all the time.



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Response to PavePusher (Reply #13)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 06:56 PM

15. av8rdave is correct

At most airports, an aircraft, as long as it remains entirely in the non-movement area, can technically reposition without talking to anyone (for instance, if it needs to reposition to a gate adjacent to it's current location.) At my airport, when we talk to an aircraft that wants to reposition from the northwest side of the field to the northeast, we simply tell them "procedure will be at your own risk, use caution operating in the non-movement area". We DO NOT approve them to move (thereby we do not give permission to move) They are completely on their own at that point, and if something happens while they are moving, we as controllers are not responsible, because they remained completely in the non-movement area. I have never served in the military so they may have different rules regarding aircraft movements, but in the civilian world, with the exception of the major airports, ramps and terminal areas are totally uncontrolled.

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Response to bluevoter4life (Reply #15)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 10:28 PM

16. I stand corrected.

 

And I also wonder if that's a contributing factor.

Based on my military experience and the empirical evidence, that seems rather dangerous.

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Response to PavePusher (Reply #16)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 11:31 AM

17. Which is why major airports have these ramp towers.

It organizes the chaos that is the ramp. Though truth be told, at airfields without ramp towers, there is ample space on the ramp to maneuver and avoid hitting something. If you do, you simply were not paying attention to your surroundings, and it isn't unusual for a nearby worker to leave a piece of equipment or vehicle in the way of a taxiing aircraft. It really isn't as dangerous as it sounds. Most pilots know the inbound/outbound flow of a particular airport and thereby plan their route accordingly.

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Response to alp227 (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 02:22 PM

9. Not buying it: Where there's a horizontal stabilizer, there's a vertical one nearby!

As a pilot since 1980, I'll say that I am not buying it. The pilot should maintain full control of his aircraft and be cognizant of the surroundings. The cockpit has adequate visibility. It's a relatively weak argument to claim that ground control is solely to blame. The other plane was parked. Additionally, there might have been an advisory floating around that mentioned it.

One of the likely causers is the flight crew performing their pre-takeoff checks while taxiing. There are times when trucks and cars will zip by the plane. Riding jump seat, back in the day when you could, I've seen this similar stuff going on and I have done it as well, since the goal is to be ready to roll from the taxiway onto the runway in as short as time possible, especially when there is a heavy landing and takeoff schedule.

Spirit - It's Ground Control. Air Traffic is just that, though on some small fields GC functions are performed by the ATC folks. I do not believe that this is the case with Ft. Lauderdale's airport. http://www.aopa.org/airports/KFLL

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Response to alp227 (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 02:39 PM

10. Zoom in and check out the airport. You'll see the stand aways and the solid taxi lines.

In the following AOPA link, zoom in and view the gates and stands. They are shaded different colors. Also notice the lines that planes are to follow - they aren't left lane, right lane lines. Even if you doubt what I am saying, measure the wingspan of the aircraft with a piece of paper and see if you can fit it to the left or right of the solid line without encroaching on the tarmac. And, if you look a little north of the gates, you'll see a plane on the taxiway with it's nose over the solid line - maintaining the center of the taxiway. They are there to ensure that the aircraft has sufficient space to clear parked aircraft and whatever ground support equipment might be there to service the craft.

http://www.aopa.org/airports/KFLL

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Response to alp227 (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 04:06 PM

12. Did they have a marshaller, and two wing walkers in place?

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