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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

NTSB Issues New Safety Recommendations for Large Airplanes

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued new safety recommendations for large aircraft Wednesday, asking FAA to require large aircraft to be equipped with anti-ground collision aids.

NTSB is recommending large airplanes be equipped with an on-board external-mounted camera system to provide the pilot a clear view of the wingtips while taxing.

“On large airplanes (such as the Boeing 747, 757, 767, and 777; the Airbus A380; and the McDonnell Douglas MD-10 and MD-11), the pilot cannot see the airplane’s wingtips from the cockpit unless the pilot opens the cockpit window and extends his or her head out of the window, which is often impractical,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.

In its letter to FAA, the agency cited a total of 12 incidents that have occurred since 1993 where the wingtip of a large aircraft collided with another plane or object on the runway while taxing.

NTSB said FAA should require all existing large airplanes to be retrofitted with an anti-collision aid that help pilots to clearly determine wingtip clearance and path during taxing.

“A system that can provide real-time information on wingtip clearance in relation to other obstacles will give pilots of large airplanes an essential tool when taxiing,” said Hersman. “While collision warning systems are now common in highway vehicles, it is important for the aviation industry to consider their application in large aircraft.”

The recommendations follow three recent ground collision accidents (all currently under investigation) in which large airplanes collided with another aircraft while taxiing: in May the right wingtip of an EVA Air Boeing 747-400 struck the rudder and vertical stabilizer of an American Eagle Embraer 135 while taxiing at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport; in July 2011, a Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 was taxiing for departure when its left winglet struck the horizontal stabilizer of an Atlantic Southeast Airlines Bombardier CRJ900; and in April 2011, during a taxi for departure, the left wingtip of an Air France A380 struck the horizontal stabilizer and rudder of a Comair Bombardier CRJ701.

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