NTSB Recommends Warning Systems to Avoid Potentially Dangerous Ground Collisions by Commercial Airliners

Aviation accidents are not a rare occurrence. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board lists on its website over 100 accident investigations it is conducting for the month of August 2012 alone. (Through September 15, it lists over 30 accident investigations.) The preliminary causes for these accidents are varied – from pilot error to mechanical failure to maintenance issues.

Fortunately, the majority of these accidents did not involve serious or fatal injuries. But that shouldn’t minimize the potential for tragic consequences from airplane and helicopter crashes.

The NTSB certainly doesn’t minimize the dangers. On September 5, it recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require commercial airliners to have ground collision warning systems in an effort to reduce planes hitting one another or other obstacles while taxiing. Such systems would be similar, at least in objective, to those found on many motor vehicles.

Commercial Airliner Ground Collisions

This recommendation comes on the heels of a few recent such accidents that the NTSB is investigating:

  • The wingtip of an EVA Air Boeing 747-400 struck the rudder and vertical stabilizer of an American Eagle airplane while taxiing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on May 30, 2012.
  • July 14, 2011: A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 was taxiing for departure at Boston’s Logan Airport when its left winglet struck the horizontal stabilizer of an Atlantic Southeast Airlines airliner on July 14, 2011.
  • Also in 2011, the wingtip of an Air France A380 struck the horizontal stabilizer and rudder of a Comair jet at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

Pilot’s View of Airliner Wingtips can be Obstructed and Lead to Collisions

According to the NTSB, on large aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and 777, the Airbus 360, and McDonnell Douglas MD-10 and MD-11, the pilot’s view of the plane’s wingtips are obstructed. The pilot must open the cockpit window and stick his or her head out the window to view the wingtips, which can be problematic or ineffective.

The agency wants to have ground anti-collision systems incorporated into all newly built commercial airliners, as well as have current operating aircraft retrofitted with them. Even minor collisions have the potential to damage the aircraft and, if gone unnoticed, can lead to dangerous performance issues while in the air.

Catastrophic aircraft accidents are complicated, requiring experienced attorneys who know how to properly conduct investigations into their cause while representing the rights of the victims. So it makes sense to employ technology that can help prevent or avoid one potential deadly cause.