NTSB Identification: MIA02IA167.
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Scheduled 14 CFR American Airlines, Inc.
Incident occurred Friday, September 13, 2002 in Miami, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/29/2004
Aircraft: Boeing 737-823, registration: N939AN
Injuries: 105 Uninjured.
NTSB investigators used data provided by various sources and may not have traveled in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft incident report.
Prior to the incident date, the tow tug driver had not towed an airplane in 6 years. Additionally, prior to the incident tow he had not received recurrent tow training since being away from the ramp for the previous 6 years. On the date of the incident, he towed 4 airplanes before the incident tow. Additionally, he had never received training in, nor towed the incident make and model airplane prior to the incident tow. American Airline’s procedures did not require tow training for a Boeing 777 airplane if the tow was conducted for maintenance, and the person had wide body tow training. The tow training curriculum for a Boeing 777 was not in place at the time of the incident. Additionally, the tow tug driver reported that he was not familiar with markings on the ramp which specified wide body airplanes were required to use spot 6C, not 6S, or 6N, which was covered by a NOTAM issued in August 2001. The purpose of the tow was to reposition the Boeing 777 airplane from a gate to a maintenance hangar; the tow tug driver did not brief the tow crew about the tow. Just before the tow began, the American Airlines Tower Coordinator (Tower Coordinator) advised the brake rider that the airplane was cleared to push 6 center out. The brake rider reportedly relayed the same instructions to the tow tug driver but he (tow tug driver) reported he was not advised what route to follow. The tow began with wing walkers, then as forward motion began, they left the tow. The airplane began following the line 6S and at that time, communication between the Tower Coordinator and brake rider began; the Tower Coordinator advising the brake rider that the airplane was being towed on line 6S instead of 6C. The brake rider advised the Tower Coordinator he knew, and had attempted to communicate with the tow tug driver and also flashed the airplanes landing and taxi lights numerous times in an attempt to get the tow tug drivers attention. The tow continued on line 6S, and the tow tug driver elected to stop the airplane short of spot 6, as he had not heard from the brake rider. He got out of the tug and noted the headset cord was lying on the ground, the male end was still connected to the airplane. He was then advised of damage to the tow airplane and damage to the rudder of an Boeing 737 airplane parked at gate E34 with passengers on-board awaiting pushback. The captain of the Boeing 737 parked at the gate reported that he and the first officer were going through the checklist and with the parking brake engaged, they felt a movement. He then had the jet bridge brought back in position, exited the airplane for inspection, and noted the damage to the rudder. He also noted the Boeing 777 was 150 feet west of his airplane on the "south tow line.' The passengers were then deplaned from his airplane.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this incident to be: The failure of the tug driver to maintain wingtip clearance with a parked airplane, and the inability of the tug driver to communicate with the brake rider during a tow operation following failure of the headset cord. Contributing factors in the incident were the inadequate aircraft/equipment by the airplane manufacturer for failure to provide a strain relief point for the headset cord and failure of American Airlines to disseminate information to the tug driver related to markings on the ramp. Full narrative available
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