On March 1, 2000, at 0347 Eastern Standard Time, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30F, N302FE, operated by Federal Express, was substantially damaged during pushback at Newark International Airport (EWR), Newark, New Jersey. On the airplane, the captain, first officer, flight engineer and two couriers were uninjured. On the ground, three maintenance technicians were also uninjured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. An instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed for the cargo flight, between Newark and Memphis International Airport (MEM), Memphis, Tennessee. The flight was to be conducted under 14 CFR Part 121.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Inspector, the airplane was taxiing to the runway for departure when the APU door light illuminated. The airplane returned to the loading dock, the engines were shut down, the APU door was closed, and the APU was secured. The airplane's engines were then restarted at the dock, and the airplane began another pushback. During that pushback, it contacted the loading dock, and suffered an 8-foot gash along the left side, below the cockpit area.

According to a company safety analyst, for the pushback, one of the maintenance technicians was "on a headset," next to the right side of the airplane. Another technician was acting as a "wing walker," aft of the airplane, and a third technician was driving the tug. The "headset man" stated that the crew gave permission to push back. Halfway through the pushback, the captain told him to stop because he thought the airplane had contacted the loading dock. The headset man walked to the left side of the airplane and then saw the gash.

The tug operator stated that he was using a different tug than the one used during the first pushback. The tug had a "2-wheel working fault" indication. After receiving clearance to push, the tug operator "made a gradual turn to avoid equipment and minimize jet blast to other gates. Halfway down the ramp, [I] received [a] stop signal."

The safety analyst further stated that, originally, the tug operator had insisted that there were problems with "the tug's drive mechanism sticking in 2-wheel mode or the crab mode." Post-accident investigation of the tug revealed no anomalies, although other mechanics subsequently complained about the same intermittent problem. Components were removed for testing, with no anomalies found; however, once those components were replaced, there were no additional problems with the tug.

A representative from the tug's manufacturer stated that "regardless of...system status, the operator will always have control of the front wheel steering and braking."

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