In the month of November, SkyWest Airlines sustained substantial damage to three of its Bombardier CRJ aircraft, all of which were caused by ground handling incidents, and two of which occurred on the same day.
The most recent was a 23 November incident at the Salt Lake City International airport where a combination of an icy tarmac and an inoperative auxiliary power unit may have contributed to an incident that damaged a SkyWest Airlines CRJ700.
According to a preliminary report by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), N614SK sustained "substantial damage to the lower fuselage structure and multiple belly stringers" by a tug being used for a pushback.
Delta Connection flight 4543 was scheduled to depart for Oklahoma City with 69 passengers and crew, none of whom were injured in the night time incident.
Flight and ground crew statements indicate that the first attempt to push the aircraft back from the gate was unsuccessful as the tug could not gain enough traction. NTSB notes that there was 1 inch of "ice and snow" covering the ground in the ramp area, and that both of the aircraft's engines were operating at the time because the onboard auxiliary power unit was inoperative.
Ground crews brought in a larger tug which was successful in moving the airplane, "however, during the push-back both the airplane and the tug began to slip", says the NTSB. "The tug continued to lose traction and subsequently 'jack-knifed,' breaking its tow-bar and colliding with the underside of the airplane's fuselage," the report states.
On 2 November a driverless pickup truck being operated by United Airlines ground crews caused damage to a SkyWest CRJ200 at the Chicago O'Hare international airport.
According to the NTSB's preliminary report, Flight 1020 (N709BR), with 34 passengers and three crew bound for Moline, Illinois, had pushed back from the gate at 10:27 am CDT and moved out of the immediate area to allow an inbound aircraft to access the gate when the incident occurred. There were no injuries.
"As the airplane began to move the flight crew saw the pickup truck moving on the ramp, so they stopped the airplane," says the NTSB. "The Ford Ranger pickup truck backed into the left side of the nose of the plane."
The driver told the NTSB that he had left the vehicle on the ramp with the engine running. "When he returned to where he left the vehicle, it was gone," the driver told investigators.
Also on 2 November a SkyWest CRJ200 (N454SW) on the ground at the Pittsburgh international airport received significant damage to its fuselage when a ramp agent drove a cart supplying the aircraft with high pressure ground air away from the aircraft without disconnecting the hose.
According to an NTSB report, the error tore the high pressure ground air receptacle from its access door and ripped an 0.3m (1ft) gash "up the side of the fuselage".