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Wing Tip Clearance Hazard

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Article Information
Category: Ground Operations Ground Operations
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Content control: EUROCONTROL EUROCONTROL

Description

Taxiways are designated for use by all or only some aircraft types. Provided ATC do not make errors in issuing taxi clearance and aircraft flight crew comply with clearances or standard routings, the greatest risk of wing tip collision is present when aircraft are holding or manoeuvring, for example on the approach to the runway entry point. Large Aircraft where the wing tip may not be visible to the pilots, may have to manoeuvre, sometimes at night, to change the queuing order. Such movement often needs to be carried out without taxiway centrelines to follow.

The responsibility for aircraft safety when taxying remains wholly with each aircraft commander. Sometimes, the potential hazard of wingtip collision is known to the airport operators, who may mitigated their liability by ATIS or NOTAM statements such as “wingtip clearance is not assured”.

Examples of the way in which wing tip collision has occurred can be found in the reports on the serious incidents listed under below.

All the aircraft involved in these occurrences were, like most modern transport aircraft, swept wing types which are subject to a phenomenon known as ‘swept wing growth’ or ‘wing creep’. This occurs during a turn when the wing tip describes an arc greater than the normal wingspan due to the geometry of the aircraft and the arrangement of the landing gear. It is one of the reasons for the manufacturer’s cautions usually found in the Flight Crew Training Manuals. Although the effect is less noticeable at moderate curvature of turn, it still serves to erode the perceived wing tip clearance in any turn.

Swept Wing Growth
When the aircraft is pivoted on its main wheels, the wing tip and horizontal stabilizer clearance may decrease as the wing tip/tail surface arc or track moves outward[1].

References

  1. ^ NATA Safety 1st® eToolkit – Volume I, Issue 3 – October 15, 2004

Related Articles

Accidents and Serious Incidents

  • A321, Daegu South Korea, 2006 (GND HF) (On 21 February 2006, an Airbus A321-200 being operated by China Eastern on a scheduled passenger flight from Daegu to Shanghai Pudong failed to follow the marked taxiway centreline when taxiing for departure in normal daylight visibility and a wing tip impacted an adjacent building causing minor damage to both building and aircraft. None of the 166 occupants were injured.)
  • B74S, Stockholm Arlanda Sweden, 1996 (GND HF) (On 14 June 1996, a Boeing 747SP being operated by Air China on a scheduled passenger flight from Beijing to Stockholm was arriving on the designated parking gate at destination in normal daylight visibility when it collided with the airbridge. None of the 130 occupants of the aircraft suffered any injury but the aircraft was “substantially damaged” and the airbridge was “damaged”.)
  • A332/A345, Khartoum Sudan, 2010 (GND HF) (On 30 September 2010, an Airbus 330-200 being operated by KLM on a passenger fight from Khartoum to Abu Dhabi UAE taxied for departure along the main taxiway parallel to the runway in normal night ground visibility and when passing behind a parked Airbus A340-500 with passengers on board hit the lower empennage of that aircraft with its left wing tip without awareness of any impact. When the A340 crew reported the impact a few minutes later after detecting an abnormal jolt and losing the APU function and the services it was providing, the A330 had just been given take off clearance and was about to roll. Signalling from a hand held flashlight and the radio call from the A340 resulted in the A330 holding position and shutting down for a tow back to the Terminal. None of the 142 occupants on the A330 or any of those on the A340 were injured.)
  • B744, Paris CDG France, 2003 (GND HF) (On 18 January 2003, a Boeing 747-400F being operated by Singapore Airlines Cargo on a scheduled cargo flight from Paris CDG to Dubai taxied for departure in darkness and fog with visibility less than 100 metres in places and the right wing was in collision with a stationary and unoccupied ground de/anti icing vehicle without the awareness of either the flight crew or anybody else at the time. Significant damage occurred to the de icing vehicle and the aircraft was slightly damaged. The vehicle damage was not discovered until almost two hours later and the aircraft involved was not identified until it arrived in Dubai where the damage was observed and the authorities at Paris CDG advised.)
  • B744 / A321, London Heathrow UK, 2004 (GND HF) (On 23 March 2004, an out of service British Airways Boeing 747-400, under tow passed behind a stationary Airbus A321-200 being operated by Irish Airline Aer Lingus on a departing scheduled passenger service in good daylight visibility and the wing tip of the 747 impacted and seriously damaged the rudder of the A321. The aircraft under tow was cleared for the towing movement and the A321 was holding position in accordance with clearance. The towing team were not aware of the collision and initially, there was some doubt in the A321 flight deck about the cause of a ‘shudder’ felt when the impact occurred but the cabin crew of the A321 had felt the impact shudder and upon noticing the nose of the 747 appearing concluded that it had struck their aircraft. Then the First Officer saw the damaged wing tip of the 747 and informed ATC about the possible impact. Later another aircraft, positioned behind the A321, confirmed the rudder damage. At the time of the collision, the two aircraft involved were on different ATC frequencies.)
  • … further results