NTSB calls for ground anti-collision systems

Washington DC
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US safety investigators have called for regulations requiring wingtip anti-collision aids for large airliners to avoid collisions on the ground and are criticising the system installed on the Airbus A380 as inadequate.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent three recommendations to the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency on 4 September. These recommendations would require installing an aid, such as a camera system, to make the wing-tips visible from the cockpit, and an indicator to help pilots determine wing-tip clearance and path on all new large aircraft. Another recommendation urges the regulators to mandate retrofitting similar systems on all existing aircraft.

Systems already installed on the A380 and the A340-500 and -600 - comprising external cameras on the vertical fin and the fuselage designed to aid the pilots during taxiing - do not show the area around the wing-tips, the NTSB says.

An Air France A380 struck the horizontal stabiliser of a Comair Bombardier CRJ700 with its left wing-tip while taxiing at New York JFK in April 2011.

The accident was one of 12 collisions cited by the NTSB since 1993 during which the wing-tip of a large aircraft collided with another aircraft during taxi.

"Typically, pilots look out the cockpit window at the wing-tips to determine wing-tip path and clearance," says the NTSB.

"On large airplanes the pilot cannot see the airplane's wing-tips from the cockpit unless the pilot opens the cockpit window and extends his or her head out of the window, which is often impractical."

Other recent accidents include the 30 May 2012 incident when a taxiing EVA Air Boeing 747-400 struck the protruding tail of an American Eagle Embraer ERJ-135 at Chicago in daylight, substantially damaging its rudder and vertical fin. And on 14 July 2011 a Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300ER at Boston hit an Atlantic Southeast Airlines Bombardier CRJ900 at the intersections of taxiways B and M, damaging the fin, horizontal stabiliser and hydraulics.