A380 collides with regional jet at JFK airport

On Monday, an Air France Airbus A380, operating as Air France Flight 007, collided with a Comair Bombardier CRJ-700, operating as Comair flight 553/Delta Connection flight 6293 in Delta Connection livery, on a taxiway at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The A380 had 520 people onboard, and the smaller plane had 66.

An Air France Airbus A380 Image: Andy Mitchell.

 The Comair jet had just arrived from Boston Logan International Airport, and was stopped on the tarmac, awaiting a gate to offload passengers. The A380 was preparing to depart for Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, and was taxiing along a taxiway when its wingtip struck the tail of the other plane. The impact spun the CRJ around 90 degrees and resulted in some damage to both planes.

A Delta Connection Bombardier CRJ-700 Image: Mark Wagner.

A passenger on board the A380 said that “It really felt just like a speedbump or like hitting a pothole—a jolt—but it didn’t feel right [it felt] like that shouldn’t be happening.”

LiveATC.net captured the recording of the flight deck and ground control communications before and after the incident. In the recording, one can hear controllers giving taxi instructions to the Air France plane, then later a controller calling for emergency personnel to the intersection of taxiways Alpha and Mike.

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to investigate the incident, and will study the flight recorders, air traffic control recordings, and data from radar on the ground.

‘Critical safety issue’ with A380 engines

Australian transport investigators have announced they have identified a “critical safety issue” with engines fitted to the world’s largest passenger airliner. Some Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, which power some Airbus A380 “superjumbos”, may be prone to “fatigue cracking”, which could lead to oil leakage and a fire.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said they think this was “central to the engine failure” which occurred on a Qantas A380 on November 4, shortly after take-off from Singapore. The airline grounded all six of its fleet of A380s so they could undergo safety checks before they were put back into service. Late last month, Qantas announced the aircraft were safe and began returning them to service.

A Rolls-Royce engineer testing a Trent 900 engine. Image: US Air Force.

The ATSB said the manufacturing fault with the Trent 900 engines “could lead to an elevated risk of fatigue crack initiation and growth, oil leakage and potential catastrophic engine failure from a resulting oil fire.” The agency urged Rolls-Royce to “address the safety issue and take actions necessary to ensure the safety of flight operations in transport aircraft equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 series engines.”

Qantas emphasised on Thursday that there was “no immediate risk to flight safety,” but said they would conduct further investigations. A statement from the airline said: “Qantas currently has two A380 aircraft in operational service, following the grounding of the fleet on 4 November. Both A380 aircraft will be inspected at the Qantas Jet Base in Sydney. Inspections will commence this afternoon.” Two other airlines use A380 aircraft with Trent engines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines; Singapore Airlines said they were checking the engines of their A380s “on a daily basis”. They said: “The new checks advised by the ATSB will be carried out as quickly as possible.”

The incident in Singapore was embarrassing for Airbus. Aviation journalist Tom Ballantyne said the incident in Singapore was “certainly the most serious incident that the A380 has experienced since it entered operations.” The A380 made its first commercial flight in 2007, and is now in service with several other airlines, including Air France and Emirates. It is the largest commercial passenger airliner in the world, with an 840-passenger maximum capacity, though Qantas’ can carry 450.

Qantas says A380 aircraft are safe to fly after ‘serious’ incident

Australian airline Qantas has returned the first of its fleet of Airbus A380s to service, after all six of the “superjumbo” aircraft were grounded three weeks ago following one aircraft’s engine sustaining extensive midair damage; it landed safely in Singapore without injury. The airline stated that all of the aircraft have undergone extensive safety inspections and they are satisfied they are safe.

An Airbus A380 like that involved in the incident earlier this month. The A380, or "superjumbo", is the largest commercial passenger airliner in the world. Image: Andrei Dimofte.

Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, said: “It’s great that we can reintroduce the aircraft. We are 100 percent comfortable with it. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be restarting the operations today.” A spokesperson confirmed that tests had been performed “in close consultation with Rolls-Royce and Airbus” on the model’s Trent 900 engines. Qantas has replaced at least 14 engines, and modifications have been made to Trent 900s used by two other companies, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

Experts said that the incident was embarrassing for Airbus; the airline’s shares have dropped by 7% since. Aviation journalist Tom Ballantyne said that the failure earlier this month was “certainly the most serious incident that the A380 has experienced since it entered operations.” The A380 made its first commercial flight in 2007, and is now in service with several other airlines, including Air France. It is the largest commercial passenger airliner in the world, with an 840-passenger maximum capacity, though Qantas’s can carry 450. There are reportedly plans to build a cargo version of the plane, which, aviation experts have suggested, would be the world’s first “triple-decker” freight aircraft; Airbus has not confirmed that this variant will be built.

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