Oops: EasyJet & KLM Planes Collide During Pushback

Filed Under: Videos

One has to wonder exactly how this happened. Yesterday a KLM Boeing 737-800 and EasyJet Airbus A320 collided during pushback in Amsterdam. Both planes were pushing back at the same time from opposite gates, and backed up into one another.

Here’s video footage of the incident:


The KLM flight was bound for Madrid, and ended up being delayed by about 2.5 hours. Meanwhile the EasyJet flight was bound for London, and ended up having a more substantial delay, as they had to find a new plane for passengers.

One thing you’ll notice is that neither plane has “wing walkers.” In most parts of the world when you push back you have one person walking along the edge of each wing, to be sure that there’s full clearance. That way they can let the driver of the tug know if there’s anything in the way.

As you can see, they don’t have that in Amsterdam. Given that, I can see how this happened — the pilots obviously can’t see anything, and the person driving the pushback tug is most likely just looking to the sides of the wings for clearance, and can’t easily see if there’s anything behind.

The big question here really is how both planes were given pushback clearance at the same time. Here’s the ATC audio for the incident:

It appears like both planes were given pushback clearance and the aircraft traffic controller acknowledges there was a “complete misunderstanding,” because he thought the EasyJet plane was at a different pier.

I can’t understand everything that’s said, though, as much of the communication between the KLM pilot and controller is in Dutch.

Bottom line

Fortunately no one was hurt and no one was even inconvenienced that much in the grand scheme of things, though this was still a costly mistake. I’ve often seen the wing walkers along the side of planes and thought to myself “I bet they’ll be cut at some point,” though this is maybe a good reminder of the value they can add.

While I’m sure there will be a further investigation, it seems like this issue stemmed from the controller being confused about where the EasyJet plane was. What we don’t know is what caused that confusion, and also why the pushback operators didn’t notice this.

  1. Dreadful, unforgivable of the ATCO and KLM to resort to speaking in Dutch. Spatial awareness includes understanding what is happening on the RT. This accident involved another aircraft with an English speaking crew. The default should have been for all RT to have been in English.

  2. There seem to be a number of these incidents every year. Every time one happens I ask myself, “Where were the wing walkers?”

  3. If you listen carefully to the last 20 seconds of the video, you can hear that the pilot of Delta November (easyjet) at the end of the video responds in Dutch as well, meaning that all involved parties understand Dutch. Because of this, I don’t think speaking Dutch is inappropriate in this situation.

  4. Last Monday there’s been a more serious (and little reported) incident with a KLM cargo 747 (flying a route operated by the Martinair subsidiary) loosing a wing flap while approaching Robert Mugabe Airport in Harare.

  5. Get all involved a drug test and fire them. Retards.

    How long are the planes out of service?

  6. Seems like ATC thought Easyjet was at pier H, but they were actually at pier D.

    As a pilot, yes all communication should be in english, so all parties can hear and understand, even if one of the pilots on Easyjet also speek dutch. This creates much better situational awareness.
    For example when Im bout to pushing back, Im already listening who is moving near me, what clearances they get etc. Then i get a mental picture of what could pose as a problem for me. If, like in china, its gibberish, i loose all that information.

  7. Just to give some context as a native Dutch speaker:
    KLM: “we hit easyjet”
    ATC replies in Dutch: “So it really was a true contact?”
    KLM “yes”
    ATC: “Awwwww, that’s a very difficult one. At this moment in time I cannot do anything. Pardon me by any chance. We’ll try to push forward EZY very carefully and see what happens”
    KLM: “Yes, let me see.. yeah, that is what has to be done because otherwise he’ll be blocked”
    KLM: “Can we be pushed back to the gate?”
    ATC: “Yeah wait, if you are entangled that does not seem to be the best idea. Someone from the airport will pass by and afterward I’ll notify you.”
    KLM: “Yeah, we cannot assess this properly on our end, indeed.”

    Then it is basically some chatting about that they have to maintain their position, to both KLM and EZY.

    * Translation errors reserved

  8. Lucky you may be interested to know that in most countries, there are *not* wing walkers. In the US, they are a holdover from unions demanding that they keep *mechanics* employed. Yes, those wing walkers are members of the mechanics union.

    And in most countries, they manage to have years of operations without incident. They don’t have baggage carts, stair trucks, etc. parked haphazardly all over the apron and 1-2 person(s) driving the tug is enough to ensure safety, aside from miscommunication that obviously happened here.

  9. Good old Schiphol, cutting costs and corners since 1916! This is my home airport. I usually take the much longer drive to Brussels.

  10. I can honestly understad ATC here. I have never ever seen an easyjet plane at that part of schiphol.

  11. @77W Jones – how disgusting. I suggest you take some lessons on respect.

    @Unnayan Jain – and you think the tug driver would have heard them through the plane and stopped? Even if someone had seen it coming, the whole incident took less than 20 seconds – pretty sure it would have been impossible to prevent at that point.

  12. Easyjet almost always departs from pier H at AMS (I must have queued up there 100 times) so the controller could be forgiven for that misunderstanding.

  13. I guess both plane pilots wanted the other to go first, but then they had to go Dutch…

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