On March 20, 1996, at approximately 1625 eastern standard time, a Douglas DC-8-62, N803AX, registered to and operated by Airborne Express, Inc., sustained substantial damage when it collided with a snow removal truck while taxiing for takeoff at Airborne Airpark, in Wilmington, Ohio. There were no injuries reported by the three flightcrew members onboard the airplane, or the driver of the snowplow. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and a instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The flight operated under 14 CFR Part 91, and was a positioning flight to Ontario International Airport, in Ontario, California. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to company representatives, Airborne Airpark is a private airport, owned and operated by Airborne Express. The control tower is staffed by Airborne Express employees and the tower operating hours are set to coincide with Airborne Express's peak hours of operation. Normal working hours are from 1900 or 2100 hours until 0700 the next day. The control tower was not functioning at the time of the accident.
The airplane was dispatched by Airborne Express's Flight Control Department, which functions as a dispatch department. The Flight Control Department also handles local airport advisory service during the hours that the control tower is closed . According to company policy, once the airplane began to taxi, the pilot in command became responsible for the avoidance of other aircraft, surface vehicles, or other objects.
The snowplows also operate through the Flight Control Department. The two drivers and two supervisors were briefed on the active runways and taxiways, and were instructed as to where they were to operate. The two supervisors were in separate vehicles and were present to ensure separation between the snow removal equipment and other vehicles operating on the airport. The two supervisors were equipped with VHF/FM radios to listen to communications of airplanes operating on the airport, and to relay instructions or information to the snowplow drivers as needed.
The pilot in command stated that he was taxiing the airplane south on taxiway Alpha toward runway 4R. He stated that he taxied the airplane to the left of the taxiway centerline to avoid a large (approximately 4 feet tall) snow bank near the intersection of taxiway Alpha and taxiway Alpha 3. When the airplane was clear of the snow bank, the pilot returned to the taxiway centerline. The pilots stated that they performed some of the taxi checklist items as they taxied. They indicated that they had just completed the flight control check when they noticed the yellow snowplow located on the left side of the taxiway. The pilot in command stated that it appeared that the snowplow was backing up towards the taxiway at the time of the impact. He stated that he attempted to stop the airplane, but was unable to stop prior to the collision. The pilot in command reported that his attention was somewhat diverted by another snow bank located on the right side of the taxiway.
The driver of the snowplow stated that he had just pushed snow into the corner of Bravo ramp and Alpha taxiway. He stated that he was in the process of putting the snowplow into reverse or had just started backwards when he heard and felt something hit the snowplow. The snowplow driver stated that he did not hear nor see the airplane taxiing, and the supervisors did not alert him to the airplane's movements. He stated that he believed that the airplanes were using a different runway, and that he was authorized to conduct snow removal operations on the taxiways.
A weather observation taken at 1635 noted the following weather conditions: sky obscured, with an estimated 600 foot ceiling; visibility, one mile with light snow and fog; temperature 31 degrees Fahrenheit (F); dew point, 29 degrees F; and winds out of 330 degrees magnetic at 13 knots. The altimeter setting was 29.42 inches Hg. Postaccident examination revealed that the snowplow was stopped on the taxiway side of the hold lines. A partial airport diagram is appended. Flightcrew, snow removal crew, and witness statements are appended.