NTSB Identification: DCA11FA045A
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 129: Foreign operation of Air France
Accident occurred Monday, April 11, 2011 in Jamaica, NY
Aircraft: AIRBUS A380, registration: F-HPJD
Injuries: 576 Uninjured.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
History of Flight
On April 11, 2011, about 2006 EDT, an Airbus A380, F-HPJD, collided with a Bombardier CRJ 701, N641CA, while the Airbus was taxiing for takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Jamaica, New York. At the time of the accident, the CRJ was stationary with part of the airplane on the Comair/Delta parking ramp and its tail extended onto “Mike” taxiway. The CRJ was waiting for ramp clearance to its parking spot. The A380 was carrying 485 passengers and 25 crewmembers, and none were injured. The CRJ was carrying 62 passengers and 4 crewmembers, and none were injured. Both the Airbus and the CRJ sustained substantial damage.
The Airbus was registered to and operated by Air France, and operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 129. The CRJ was registered to and operated by Comair, Inc., and was operating under the provisions of Code of Federal Regulations Part 121.
The CRJ had departed Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts, earlier in the evening and landed on runway 22L at JFK. After being cleared to cross runway 22R, the flightcrew was told by air traffic control (ATC) to taxi to the Comair/Delta ramp via taxiway Bravo and taxiway Mike. As the Comair airplane was approaching taxiway Mike, the first officer contacted the Delta ramp controller who advised the airplane to hold at Diamond 2, which was a painted spot on the ramp. The CRJ taxied into the ramp area and stopped with its nose landing gear on the Diamond 2 spot. In this stationary positionthe Comair airplane’s tail extended across a roadway located next to the ramp and onto taxiway Mike. The ramp area and associated taxiway where the Comair airplane was parked at Diamond 2 was not visible from the control tower and the Comair crew did not advise ATC that they had not cleared the taxiway.
While the Comair airplane was taxiing to its ramp, the Air France Airbus A380 was being pushed back from its gate on the ramp adjacent to the Comair/Delta ramp. The crew of the A380 started its engines and contacted ATC for a taxi clearance to Runway 22R. ATC advised the Air France crew to turn left on taxiway Alpha and to hold short of taxiway Echo. The A380 exited its ramp via taxiway Mike Alpha and began a left turn onto taxiway Alpha. At approximately 20:06:25, the A380 completed its turn and was established on the centerline of the taxiway with a groundspeed of about 8 knots.
The right seat captain said he checked the nose wheel camera display to be sure the nosewheel was on the centerline of the taxiways. Approximately 2 to 3 seconds later, ATC advised the A380 to give way to opposite direction traffic at taxiway Kilo Delta. The right seat captain, who was controlling the A380, stated that he did not look at his taxi map because he knew the Kilo Delta intersection was “at the end of Alpha [taxiway]”. The left seat captain stated that he knew where the intersection was located but looked momentarily at his taxi chart. Approximately fifteen seconds after being established on taxiway Alpha, the Air France airplane’s left wingtip collided with the tail section of the Comair airplane.
Both the right and left seat captains stated that they never saw the Comair airplane before the collision. Both pilots indicated they had difficulty seeing clearly outside the A-380 cockpit due to lights from the airport terminal, ground traffic and other airplanes. The right seat captain said he only looked forward outside the cockpit, not sideways. He said there were a lot of lights and flashes of light on the roadway to his left so he did not look toward the roadway. He said terminal and vehicle lights bothered him if he looked 20 degrees left.
The pilots of the Comair airplane stated that they noticed the Air France A-380 as it taxied out of its ramp. The captain said that when he noticed the A-380 was on taxiway Alpha, he decided to move his airplane forward a few feet to give the A-380 some more room. After moving forward, he stopped the airplane and reset the parking brake. He said he thought the A-380 would be able to pass behind him. After the A-380 collided with them, the Comair CRJ crew decided to evacuate the airplane. All passengers and the crew evacuated through the main cabin door.
None of the passengers or crewmembers in either airplane were injured.
Damage to Airplanes
The outer part of the left wing’s leading edge of the Airbus was substantially damaged by the impact and the top part of the left winglet was sheared off. The CRJ sustained substantial damage to its left horizontal stabilizer and rudder.
The Bombardier CRJ 701 is 106 feet, 8 inches long. The Airbus A380 is 261 feet, 6 inches wide. A Boeing 747-800, the next widest aircraft utilizing JFK taxiways, is 224 feet 7 inches wide.
Regarding visibility from the A380 cockpit, the pilots, when sitting in the correct position, are about 23 feet, 7 inches, above ground and can see the ground from about 69 feet in front of the aircraft. Cockpit window pillars are partially blocking the pilot’s view. When in the left seat, a 10°-wide blind area is situated approximately 40° to the left. The outline of the nose cone, the windshield and the side window panels were designed to obtain an outside visibility comparable to that of all modern aircraft. The visibility is greater than that defined by the Aerospace Standard: AS 580 B.
An A380 binocular vision diagram revealed that when sitting in left seat in the “normal” position (i.e. 0° vertically), there is an area between about 38° and 48° to the left where neither the left nor the right eye can see.
At 1951 EDT, the visibility was measured at 7 statute miles, with a few clouds at 10,000 feet and a broken ceiling at 25,000 feet. Sunset was at 1931 EDT.
Aids to Navigation
The Airbus was equipped with an Onboard Airport Navigation System (ONAS)that dynamically presented a display of the airplane position on an airport moving map display in the cockpit. This display could be seen on either pilot’s Navigation Display (ND) located on his instrument panel. The OANS display did not have the capability to display other airplanes, ground vehicles, or other obstructions.
The Airbus is also equipped with an External Taxi Aid Camera System (ETACS) consisting of two video cameras designed to assist the flight crew by displaying the nose and main gear positions before and during taxi.
The Belly Taxi Aid Camera System (BTACS) was located on the underside of the fuselage just aft of the nosewheel. It displayed a picture of the nosewheel and the taxiway and was used by the pilots to verify that they were on a taxiway centerline or the condition of the nosewheel.
The Fin Taxi Aid Camera (FTAC) was located on the vertical tail and displayed a view of the airplane. The Fin Camera view extended from just outside the number one outboard engine to just outside the number four outboard engine. The Fin Camera did not display the airplane wingtips. The Fin Camera projected a visual indicator to show the location of the outer edge of each of the main landing gears.
The wingtips do not appear on either of the camera views and neither of the ETACS cameras had the capability of recording.
And last, Air France had a specific A380 taxi chart for JFK airport that indicated the approved routes for taxi. At the time of the accident, the A-380 accident airplane was using an approved route.
Although the Airbus pilots stated that the ground control frequency was very busy, this communication difficulty did not affect the accident sequence of events.
According to air traffic control personnel, the diamond markings on the Delta parking ramp were meant to be hold points for departing airplanes taxiing out to taxiway Alpha, via taxiway Mike. They were not intended to be hold points for airplanes taxiing into the parking ramp after flight. In addition, the diamond markings are labeled "Aircraft Start Up" on Comair Jeppesen Plate 20-0C. An examination of historical aerial photography of the ramp revealed that the markings were applied sometime between November 24, 2006, and July 7, 2007. The investigation could not determine when Comair airplanes first began using the diamonds as stop points inbound to the ramp, prior to parking.
The JFK airport Operational Plan for the Airbus A380 movement (dated July 1, 2008) has been developed in accordance with Modifications of Standards (MOS) submitted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). It was subsequently conditionally approved by the FAA for A380 operations at JFK. The conditions of acceptance of the MOS included operational restrictions that are required under certain conditions. These operational restrictions established for A380 operations at JFK include:
• Departures from Runway 13L are not permitted. Taxiway obstructions prohibit the ground maneuverability of the aircraft.
• Departures from Runway 31R are not permitted. Taxiway obstructions prohibit the ground maneuverability of the aircraft if a departure is aborted.
• Parallel Taxiways ‘A’ and ‘B’, ‘P’ and ‘Q’ are prohibited from simultaneous A380 operations
• Taxiway ‘B’ is restricted from normal A380 operations.
• South Bridges (Van Wyck Expressway) restrictions – See red area in the figure below. A380 must cross bridges alone. All simultaneous aircraft crossings with an A380 are prohibited. JFK – ATCT will instruct aircraft to hold at the intersections prior to the bridge. Aircraft traveling North will be held prior to the intersection with Taxiway ‘NA’. Aircraft traveling South will be held prior to the intersection with Taxiway ‘NB’. Intermediate Holding Position Markings will identify this holding point on the taxiways.
• An A380 must be established on the centerline of Taxiways A, B, C, K, P, U, YA or ZA, in order to be considered clear of the parallel runway.
The Operational Plan identifies the preferred taxiing routes based on these restrictions.
Medical and Pathological Information
Tests and Research
Calculations revealed that if an A380 is on taxiway A with its nose wheel on the centerline and a CRJ701 is on taxiway M perpendicular to taxiway A with its nose wheel on “diamond 2”, then there is an overlap between the wingtip of the A380 and the tail of the CRJ700. This overlap is about 16 feet long.
A motion study, in the form of an animation, produced by the BEA depicted the relative positions of the two aircraft on taxiways A and M. The motion study was based on the FDR parameters of the A380 and assumes a still position of the CRJ on “diamond 2”. The audio track of the GND frequency of JFK ATCT was synchronized with the FDR data. A 10°-wide cone to the left of the A380 cockpit represented the area blocked by the window pillar when the pilot sitting on the left seat is in the normal position.
The motion study showed that the CRJ701 was in the cone area during the end of the turn of the A380 on taxiway A (from 2006:10 until 2006:20). The CRJ700 was fully out of the cone from 2006:26. One second later, the local controller instructed the A380 crew to give way to an opposite traffic about 3300 feet ahead. The collision occurred 15 seconds later, right after the A380 crew finished acknowledging the local controler instruction.
14 Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 1 – Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation, Subchapter F - Air Traffic and General Operating Rules, Part 91 – General Operating and Flight Rules, subpart 91-113 – Right-of-way Rules, (b) - General stated in part:
“…..vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft.”
The FAA Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), dated August 25, 2011, Chapter 2 - Aeronautical Lighting and Other Visual Aids, section 3 – Airport Marking Aids and Signs, sub-section 2-3-4 – Taxiway Centerline, (b.)-Taxiway Centerline, (1.) Normal Centerline stated in part:
“….being centered on the taxiway centerline does not guarantee wingtip clearance with other aircraft or objects.”
AIM, Chapter 5 – Air Traffic Procedures, section 5 – Pilot/Controller Roles and Responsibilities, sub-section 5-5-2 Air Traffic Clearance, a. – Pilot, stated that a pilot:
"Promptly complies with an air traffic clearance upon receipt except as necessary to cope with an emergency. Advises ATC as soon as possible and obtains an amended clearance, if deviation is necessary."
The four air traffic controllers present in the tower either shortly before or during the accident sequence of events were interviewed. Three stated that they would expect pilots to notify the tower if they stopped taxiing in the airport movement area. The fourth stated that pilots sometimes announce that they have stopped, and sometimes they do not.
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