DCA09FA011
DCA09FA011

On November 14, 2008, at 0545 eastern standard time, Pinnacle Airlines Inc., dba Northwest Airlink, flight 2544, a Bombardier CL-600-2B19 (registration N8698A), equipped with CF34-3B1 engines, was involved in a collision during taxi with a Delta Airlines tug with a small luggage cart attached. The scheduled, domestic passenger flight, operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 121, departed Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR), Grand Rapids, Michigan and landed at Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport (DTW), Detroit, Michigan. The tug driver received minor injuries but none of the 17 passengers, two pilots and 1 flight attendant were injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The weather observation in effect at the time of the accident was reported to be winds at 170 and 8 knots, visibility of 4 miles in fog, and overcast clouds at 500 feet. The temperature was reported as 9 degrees Celsius. It was dark with light rain at the time of the accident.

According to the accident captain, on the inbound flight to DTW they landed on runway 22L. The flight was instructed by ground control to taxi via taxiway Kilo and Quebec 3 and to hold short of taxiway Quebec. The airplane light switches were configured with the navigation lights on, anti-collision light on, wing inspection lights on, and taxi/recognition lights on. The flight contacted ramp control and was cleared to taxi to gate C7 via Quebec, going from north to south. According to the Northwest Airlines ramp controller, when he looked out he could clearly see the airplane as it had all the "normal taxi lights on." Usually, all traffic goes from south to north but this type of clearance is given late at night or early in the morning when ground traffic is light.

The captain stated that he did not see any ground vehicles in close proximity to the airplane as he prepared to turn into the gate. According to the captain, they were "moving at a crawl" toward gate C7 when the airplane was struck on the left side. He requested crash, fire, and rescue (CFR) personnel and began following the instructions of the fire commander.

The ramp agent's [tug driver] normal shift consisted of four 10-hour days. He was starting the second day of the four day work week when the accident occurred. The ramp agent stated that he arrived at work in the "B/C" concourse about 0515, had some coffee, and saw that he was scheduled as a "baggage runner" that day. He took his radio and his lunch box to his tug, and drove to the bag room in the "A" concourse.

There were a couple of last-minute bags that needed to be delivered to a Delta Airlines flight that was departing at 0555 for Atlanta, Georgia. He placed the bags in the cart behind his tug and began driving back toward the "B/C" concourse. He drove on one of the "zipper" roads that goes between the "A" and the "B/C" concourses. It was dark and there was a "medium, steady" rain falling. The left side of his tug was open and the right side was covered with a fabric zip-on cover with a clear plastic panel for a window. He had his windshield wipers on. He did not see any traffic along the way, but he could see the "C" concourse directly in front of him, and it was "all lit up." As he proceeded across an intersecting taxiway, he heard airplane engines nearby, and was surprised. He was not sure if he stepped on the brakes, but he remembered seeing a glimpse of an airplane fuselage immediately before hearing a loud "crunch" noise. He did not see any lights from the airplane. He said that airplanes "did not often" taxi to the south on that taxiway; they usually went north. He had not reached the intersection for the North/South "zipper" road when he struck the airplane.

The tug struck the plane about half way down the left wing with the tug ending up near the wing-to-fuselage fairing. The tug was dragged approximately 25 feet before the plane stopped. The ramp agent stated that he was ejected from the tug. His cell phone was found on the ramp approximately 15 feet away from the tug. The front axle of the tug was damaged but other damage was reported as cosmetic.

When the ramp agent "came to," he was lying on the tarmac. He thought he must have lost consciousness for a short time. He saw the airplane and noticed the cabin windows. He stood there for a few seconds trying to figure out what had happened, and then got his radio from the tug. He called Comair operations and told them that he had had an accident, and somebody needed to come get the bags he was carrying in the cart. He called operations again, and told them to "get a lead" [supervisor] to come to where he was, and to notify airport rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) personnel of the accident. Right after he made the second call, police, firefighters and other rescue personnel began arriving. "Six or seven" Mesaba Airlines employees arrived, and one of them found his cell phone lying on the tarmac. The ramp agent said that his cell phone had been in his pocket at the time of the accident. Company policy does not allow him to eat, drink, smoke, or use the telephone while he is performing his duties.

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