Planes Clip On Tarmac: Southwest Jets Connect During Gate Pushbacks

Two Southwest planes clipped on the tarmac in Burbank, California, on Saturday in an incident that remains under investigation. Luckily, nobody was injured and while the incident became an inconvenience for the passengers involved, the runway issue didn’t amount to anything more than a slowing down of passenger travel plans.

As NBC Los Angeles shares, two Southwest planes clipped wingtips on the tarmac on Saturday morning. Flight 4721 was leaving the gate at the Burbank Bob Hope Airport and it ended up clipping another plane’s wing. The passengers from both jets were deplaned and rerouted, and both planes were taken out of service and will undergo a maintenance check.

Airport spokeswoman Lucy Burghdorf indicated that at the time of the incident, both 737s were in the process of being pushed back from the gate. As the Los Angeles Times details, the airport is known for being small and crowded and parking and moving the planes is often a challenge.

The ground crew is in charge of pushing the planes away from the gate, and there is a driver and typically an observer at each wing to guide the jet in the process. At this point it is not known exactly what failed in the process that lead to the two planes connecting. Photos show the plane clip on the tarmac where the winglet on one plane was touching the horizontal stabilizer at the back of another plane.

The two flights involved were Southwest flight 4721 headed to Sacramento, California, containing 106 passengers, and Southwest flight 2183 carrying 114 passengers to Phoenix, Arizona. The planes had been at neighboring gates and both an internal review and a National Transportation Safety Board investigation are taking place.

According to CNN, there were no injuries in the incident where the two planes clipped on the tarmac. The Federal Aviation Administration will also be investigating the incident. The airline says that their top focus is safety and they will be ensuring that they determine just how the incident came to happen and make sure that going forward the same type of thing doesn’t happen again.

This isn’t the first time plane tips have collided on the tarmac, as a somewhat similar incident happened last winter at LaGuardia in New York. The Burbank passengers who talked with the media after Saturday’s incident seemed to have taken the situation in stride, despite some reroutes and travel delays. Reports indicate that some passengers needed to be rerouted through Los Angeles, but things seemed to fall into place without too many significant challenges.

While the delays encountered due to the Southwest planes clipping on the tarmac aren’t ideal, as some passengers noted, having the incident take place on the ground is certainly preferred to an incident in the sky.

[Image via New York Daily News]