Air France & ITA JFK ground incident basics
This incident took place at New York’s JFK Airport on Friday, June 17, 2022. Specifically, it involves:
- A 21-year-old Air France Boeing 777-200 with the registration code F-GSPQ; this plane had just arrived from Paris, performing flight AF8
- A 10-year-old ITA Airways Airbus A330-200 with the registration code EI-EJL; this plane was departing for Rome, performing flight AZ611
The incident was first reported when an Air France pilot contacted JFK ground controllers, and informed them that “there was an Alitalia passing behind us that hit our aircraft,” and they were passing this on “so you can tell them not to take off.”
There was some confusion between the Air France pilot and controllers, both because the plane was being described as “Alitalia” (ITA uses a different call sign, as Alitalia doesn’t technically exist anymore), and there seemed to be confusion over where the Air France plane was parked.
Eventually the Air France pilot is told to contact JFK tower, where he’s heard saying “we’re on ground and inform you to stop the takeoff from Alitalia because they may have damaged the aircraft.” At this point JFK tower contacts the ITA pilots, saying that “another aircraft on the ground currently, Air France, said that you hit them or something of that nature while you were taxiing, did you experience any damage to the aircraft?” The ITA pilot simply responded with “negative, sir,” and continued on its flight.
You can listen to the entire ATC communication for yourself below.
For reference, the Air France plane is still sitting on the ground at JFK six days later. The ITA plane continued its flights to Rome as scheduled. The ITA plane, meanwhile, spent around two days on the ground in Rome, and then reentered service.
What makes this incident interesting
There’s a lot that makes this incident confusing:
- It’s of course possible that one plane sustained more serious damage than the other, and I know some pilots even report that it’s possible to have an incident on the ground without noticing it, especially at low speeds
- Looking at flight tracking software, the ITA A330 was waiting for takeoff for over 30 minutes before it was time for takeoff, yet the ITA pilots were only made aware of this incident after the plane was airborne
- While it’s in theory possible that ITA pilots performed an inspection of the incident and were available, the timeline just doesn’t make sense, based on the arrival time of the Air France jet and the departure time of the ITA jet
- If the ITA pilots weren’t aware of the incident and were only informed after takeoff, it seems reckless to continue a transatlantic flight, rather than to return to New York for the plane to be inspected
- It’s odd how authoritatively the ITA pilot claims there was no damage to the aircraft; it’s not clear if that’s simply because they had no clue there was an incident, or if it’s because they are suggesting an inspection was performed to assess damage
An Air France 777 and ITA A330 had some sort of a ground collision at JFK. The ITA pilots were allegedly only made aware of this after takeoff, but decided to continue their flight anyway. It’s hard to know what exactly to make of this.
This isn’t the first drama for Air France and ITA on JFK routes in recent months, between ITA pilots both falling asleep on a New York to Rome flight, and Air France pilots losing control of the aircraft on a New York to Paris flight.
What do you make of this incident?
(Tip of the hat to Benedict)