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.
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.