NTSB Identification: CHI04LA077.
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Scheduled 14 CFR operation of MESABA AVIATION INC (D.B.A. operation of MESABA AVIATION INC )
Accident occurred Tuesday, February 24, 2004 in Romulus, MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/08/2005
Aircraft: Saab-Scania AB (Saab) Saab 340B, registration: N420XJ
Injuries: 32 Uninjured.
NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The scheduled domestic passenger flight was being pushed back for taxi when it struck an unoccupied airplane that was parked on the ramp. Both airplanes sustained substantial damage. The 2 flight crewmembers, 1 cabin crewmember, and 29 passengers were uninjured. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The Push Tug Operator stated, "In pushing back this plane I was attempting to do it as I was trained, that is, to [prop] the front wheels on the painted line. I [normally] work on the east side and there is a line [used] for the front wheels. I had not done [a] push back [on] the west side before. While pushing this plane back I started looking for the line as I approached the line my wing walker had stopped walking the [wing] and was off to my left and slightly behind me she says she gave me a stop [signal], but due to her position I could not see her. She ran up to me and told me to stop but it was already [too] late." Excerpts from the airline's Station Operations Manual stated, "The Pushback Operator and the Captain have the overall responsibility for the safe conduct of the pushback operation. ... The Pushback Operator shall remain alert for signals given by the Wing Walker(s). When Wing Walker(s) is/are used, if visual contact between the Pushback Operator and Wing Walker is lost, stop the pushback. The Pushback Operator must continuously scan for signals and hazards. ... Before pushback of an aircraft, the Pushback Operator shall : 1. Determine where the aircraft is to be pushed back to, positioned and route to be taken. 2. Note ALL potential clearance problems to be avoided. ... 5. Review with the Captain the route to be taken. ... During pushback of an aircraft, the Pushback Operator shall: 17. Pushback ONLY when clearance from obstructions (and visual contact with Wing Walker(s), when used) is maintained. ... PUSHBACK OPERATOR CHECKLIST, BEFORE PUSHBACK CHECK 1. ASSESS ROUTE, CLEARANCES AND RAMP CONDITIONS." The Push Tug Operator tested positive for cocaine metabolite. 14 CFR Part 121 Appendix I stated, "Each person who performs a safety-sensitive function directly or by contract for an employer must be tested pursuant to an FAA-approved antidrug program conducted in accordance with this appendix." The Push Tug Operator was not on the FAA's safety-sensitive list. An airline representative reported that the airline's policy is to accomplish a pre-employment drug test for all safety-sensitive and non safety-sensitive employees. The Push Tug Operator's pre-employment drug test was reported as negative. The airline had a drug policy and an employee assistance program in-place at the time of the accident. An airline representative reported that the supervisor and coordinator for the accident gate area were two gates away and did not directly observe the accident pushback. Subsequent to the accident, the airline established a policy of random drug testing for all employees as a condition of employment.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The visual lookout not maintained and the procedures not followed by the Push Tug Operator during the pushback. Factors were the parked airplane, the dark night, and the inadequate surveillance of the pushback by airline management. Full narrative available
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