Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Air France Airbus A380 F-HPJA on ramp at Roiss...
Air France A380 Superjumbo Clips Commuter Jet at Kennedy Airport

By Andrea Rothman and Mary Schlangenstein - Apr 12, 2011 7:09 AM MT

An Air France Airbus A380 lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

An Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo operated by Air France hit a Delta Air Lines commuter jet while taxiing at New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport, spinning the smaller plane and its occupants through 90 degrees.

The A380’s wing, measuring 262 feet (80 meters) from tip to tip, clipped the tail of the Bombardier Inc. (BBD/B) CRJ700 from Delta’s Comair unit. The impact rocked the 106-foot-long CRJ and whipped it round before the A380 moved clear, video footage shows.

While none of the 520 people on the superjumbo or the 66 on the Bombardier plane were hurt in last night’s incident, the A380 was unable to fly to Paris and has been immobilized, Air France spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand said in a phone interview. Passengers will be rerouted with partner airlines, she said.

“It would have been a very interesting ride for the passengers on the CRJ,” said Paul Hayes, director of safety at London-based aviation consultancy Ascend. Though accidents while taxiing cause significant damage “once or twice a year,” the size of the A380 produced a more “spectacular” outcome, he said.

Passengers departed the Bombardier plane using mobile stairs, the standard procedure for Comair at JFK, said Anthony Black, a Delta spokesman. The CRJ700 was taxiing to a gate under its own power when the incident occurred, having just landed at 8 p.m. local time following a flight from Boston, he said.

‘Structural Repair’

“There is damage to the tail,” Black said of the 65-seat Bombardier jet. “In terms of classifying that, I can’t. Obviously it’s going to need some structural repair.”

The CRJ700, operating as flight 6293, probably also damaged its undercarriage as it was spun around, Ascend’s Hayes said, while the end portion of the wing on the superjumbo, the world’s largest passenger plane, may have to be removed and replaced.

The A380, which was operating Air France flight AF7 and taxiing toward the runway at the time of the collision, is one of four so far delivered to the carrier by Airbus. Barrand said it isn’t immediately clear how long it will take to repair the jetliner, which is always deployed on the New York route.

Officials from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration were “immediately” on scene and are investigating with the National Transportation Safety Board, aided by Delta, Comair and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which runs JFK, Black said, adding that he didn’t know whether the planes were under ground-control guidance when the accident happened.

A330 Clash

Air France suffered an earlier incident involving an A380 on Oct. 30, when one of its planes was brushed by the wing of an Airbus A330 while parked at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, putting the bigger plane out of action for about two weeks.

Barrand said it’s too early to speculate on what led to the collision, while Comair didn’t comment on the cause.

“Crew are meant to be aware of where their wingtips are,” Ascend’s Hayes said. “But then again if you’re taxiing cleared for takeoff with your nose gear on the center line of the taxiway you should expect there’d be clearance.”

Air France-KLM (AF) Group also uses A380s to serve Johannesburg and Tokyo, and will take delivery of two more of the planes by the end of May for services to Montreal and San Francisco.

The European company is a partner of Atlanta-based Delta in the SkyTeam airline alliance. Toulouse, France-based Airbus is as unit of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrea Rothman in Paris at aerothman@bloomberg.net; Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net; Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net
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