Ouch: Asiana A330 Knocks Tail Off Turkish A321 In Istanbul

Filed Under: Asiana, Turkish

It’s not that uncommon for there to be collisions between planes on the ground. Fortunately typically no one is hurt, so it’s just a function of being a very expensive mistake to make. The most common type of collision we see is when planes’ wings strike one another, where you’ll sometimes see one plane’s wingtip take out the wingtip of another plane.

However, I don’t recall ever seeing anything like this. An Asiana A330 took out the tail of a Turkish A321 at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport today. Here are some pictures of the incident from Twitter user @JacedecNew:

There’s also now a video of the incident:

The Asiana A330 (tail number HL7792) was departing for Seoul Incheon, though that flight was canceled following the incident, as you’d expect. The Turkish A321 (tail number TC-JMM) had just arrived from Ercan in Northern Cyprus.

It’s not yet clear what exactly caused this incident. It appears that Asiana was taxiing on the taxiway centerline, while the Turkish A321 seems to have been pulling into its arrival stand. At least that’s what it looks like. My first inclination is that they were waiting on the ground crew to give them the go ahead to pull in, and the Asiana plane may not have been paying attention.

We’ll have to wait and see who is at fault here — should the Asiana pilots have been paying more attention during the taxi, were the Turkish pilots or ground crew not paying enough attention while operating at the stand, or was it a combination of both (which is most likely)?

To me what’s most interesting here is that the tail can just “snap” like that. I figured if a wingtip hit it there might be some damage, but not that it would just snap the way it did.

(Featured image courtesy of @JacedecNew)

  1. The airport in the Turkish Republic of Norther Cyprus is ECN – Ercan International airport. Not Tymvou (which is not the a name of any location in TRNC)

  2. A few years back an Air France A380 struck the tail of a Delta CRJ-700 at JFK. Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpLd-t1tcJU

    The hilarity of the A380 pushing the CRJ like an old-Western saloon door aside, it’s interesting that the tail appears to remain mostly intact in this case and the whole plane is even swung around from the force at that point and yet it remains attached to the plane.

  3. Are Airbus tails weak? Around 2001, an AA A300-600R tail broke off after takeoff from JFK. CRJ tails seem to stay on even when hit.

  4. It’s Asiana pilots fault. Holding short of the stand is common due to parking guidance re-booting. Regardless for the reason, clearly Asiana should have spotted Turkish weren’t on stand yet and at least questioned the wingtip clearance.

  5. @derek The incident at JFK between DL6293 and AF7 is a completely different story. As much as they both seem similar on the surface (one aircraft hits another while taxiing), details prove that suspicion incorrect. Note that the contact point between an Air France A380 and Comair/DL CRJ-700 would involve not just the tail, but also the horizontal stabilizer. This increases the surface area in contact between both aircraft, reducing the force applied per square inch. The winglet of the A380 is also more likely to snag on the T-tail of the CRJ-700, spinning the aircraft rather than crushing it. In comparison, the larger A321 is more massive, preventing the force from being dissipated by movement and instead causing it to be absorbed by the tail itself.

    As for your reference to AA587, the NTSB concluded that it was the pilot’s actions, not the rudder itself, that was the cause of the accident. Improper training was the primary probable cause of the accident, and manufacturing technique and materials used were ruled out as a factor. Although some parts can be said about rudder sensitivity on the A300, the pilot’s inputs went well beyond the design capability of the tail itself, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the same movements could cause an accident in any aircraft regardless of manufacturer.

  6. AA587 missed my mom’s apartment by 100 yards.

    I would not question the structural integrity of the A321 tail because it was never intended to be hit by another plane on the ground.

    Regarding design capability if anyone has seen the new Air Crash Investigation episode about the Virgin Galactic spaceship test crash that tore apart inflight I would highly recommend it.

  7. Somebody from ground will be in trouble as VDGS was not functioning properly resulting in that accident. A321 was waiting too much outside the bay most probably because of the VDGS malfunction. There is no space for that kind of mistakes on ground handling.

  8. Wonder how damage claims are handled on incidents like this, with both planes now out of service.

    “Geico! 15 minutes could save you 15%.”

  9. I was on this flight (the turkish airlines plane that got crashed into) with my partner and 1 year old son. Nobody had a clue what was going on, people had stood up and were getting their hand luggage out and were knocked flying, it felt like an explosion. Nobody told the passengers what was happening, all we felt was a huge thud that knocked us all to the left, lots of smoke, and the smell of fuel and then was all told to leave the aircraft quickly and alot of people left handluggage in the rush.

  10. Asiana wasn’t paying attention? Ya THINK?? As if we needed yet another reason never to set foot on an Asiana airplane…

  11. Maybe it wasn’t the Asiana pilot’s fault. Maybe the pilot was having to respond to someone upset over macadamia nuts. #nutrage2.0

  12. In the video, look at the bottom left and there are 2 airport ground workers just standing and looking. I am surprised it took them a few seconds to realize what just happened.

  13. With all due respect, Lucky, it’s not all on Asiana. In fact, it’s less on them than on Turkish for not having their wing walkers in place to spot the potential problem of collision, as well as ground control not stopping the Asiana for fear of the same danger. At my airport, I have never heard ATC say, “proceed” with an A321 jutting so far into the taxiway.

  14. How irresponsible is it to start this post with “it’s not that uncommon”. Well, it is. Planes don’t knock off each other all the time. Far far from it.

  15. As a former Air Traffic Controller and Commercial Pilot and based on the video, this falls directly on Asiana. It doesn’t matter what the reason Turkish was in the way. You DO NOT taxi your airplane into another airplane or structure.

  16. @Alex Esguerra From my vantage point as an ATC, I am over a mile away from the closest aircraft passing near the terminals. It is always the PIC’s responsibility to stop and to ensure wingtip clearance under taxi.

  17. @summer

    You know you’re supppsed to stay in your seat until the seatbelt sign goes off? Ever noticed the crew that are rolling their eyes at the morons who do it anyway?

    @alex ofc it’s not Turkish fault. They have zero contact or control over ‘wing walkers’. Who… are looking at their Wing… not Asiana’s. What did you expect them to do anyway against Asiana ploughing through them?

    Turkish are temporarily holding short of stand almost certainly due to lack of parking guidance. (VDGS or Marshaller). Innocent bystander.

  18. @Sean M
    Your MEL comment just made my night! Lol

    I have no clue why the Turkish plane was parked so far off position- even if they were waiting for linesman or some ground equipment they can still pull in a bit further. It’s a general courtesy to leave enough maneuver space for other aircraft.

    That said, see and avoid is really the most basic pilot responsibility..

  19. @Alex Esguerra
    What wing walkers??? I’ve never had them in IST, not in my home airport in Northern Europe. Most airports here use safedock, or a single marshaller. Most likely the safedock system was not yet on, and instead of holding outside the the red line, the A321 is almost all the way inside the gate box. Just the tail is hanging over the line…

  20. @ Jev The airport is neither in “Northern Cyprus” nor the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. It is in the occupied regions of the Republic of Cyprus not recognized by any entity apart from the Turkey.

  21. @summer weren’t you, passengers, told to be seated until the plane get’s to it’s door? you were still taxiing. when the plane stand still doesn’t mean they’ll open the door in mid apron. for some obvious reason i cannot feel sorry for irresponsible Pax, who stood up before all the landing procedures by the pilots and cabin crew were completed.
    the fact some Pax left luggage behind – Yes! That’s what they are suppose to do in such emergency!

  22. @Lucky – the vertical stabilizer on the A321 is a mix of composites and aluminium. The composites aren’t aligned to experience forces in the transverse direction – hence the snap. The major concern for composites are the catastrophic failure when they reach their limits. In contrast, metals will deform before reaching their ultimate breaking point.

  23. @Caroline
    no one said anything against @summer
    it was a note towards paxes who were supposedly standing and reaching for their luggage when the plane was not ready to deplane at given point

  24. Good Lord I hope Turkish doesn’t try to fix that bird and send it up again. With all the airworthy planes sitting in the desert I’m sure a better alternative can be found somewhere.

  25. Asiana is the Florida of airlines, always in the news for something terrible.

  26. Tully Blanchard, Flightradar24 shows the Turkish A321 scheduled to depart ISL on a revenue flight at 2200 local tonight. I also am amazed that it was repairable. I can’t imagine the pressure hull surviving an impact hard enough to buckle the vertical tail. Yet another worrisome aspect to this accident.

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