Oops: American And Alaska Planes Clip Wings On Ground In Burbank

Everyone knows American Airlines and Alaska Airlines enjoy a close working relationship. But the pair took things too far this morning when two of their aircraft clipped wings at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

An American Airlines 737 was under tow when the incident occurred. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Getting a bit too close?

American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have been enjoying a pretty good relationship in the recent past. From the Northwest Alliance to their joint membership of oneworld, the pair have been getting ever closer. Today, it seems perhaps they got a little too close, as two of their planes clipped each other’s wings at Burbank.

The incident involved N837VA, an Alaska Airlines A320-200, which is just over 10 years old. The aircraft was scheduled to fly from Burbank to Portland as AS1475 this morning, but the flight has subsequently been canceled.

The American Airlines aircraft was a Boeing 737-800, registered N954NN, aged just over seven years. It had arrived into Burbank from Phoenix last night and was scheduled on the return rotation at 07:00 this morning. That flight was also canceled.

Alaska Airlines told Simple Flying,

“An Alaska Airlines aircraft parked at a gate at Hollywood Burbank Airport was clipped this morning by another aircraft that was being towed. No passengers or crew were on board either plane at the time of the incident. The Alaska aircraft, an Airbus 320, was scheduled to be Flight 1475 from Burbank to Portland; it has been canceled. Maintenance crews continue to inspect and evaluate the condition of the plane. The other aircraft had been impacting operations at the airport by impeding the longer runway, which was shut down.”

American Airlines further stated,

“On Aug. 20, an American Airlines Boeing 737-8 aircraft made contact with a nearby aircraft while being towed to the gate. There were no customers on board and there are no reported injuries. The aircraft has been taken out of service for maintenance and all customers have been re-accommodated on later flights. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this has caused.”

Fox News states that the FAA is investigating the cause of the incident. As well as the Administration, the airlines involved will likely be keen to investigate the cause of the accident before drawing any conclusions.

Naturally, given the close working relationship of these two airlines, plenty of commentary has ensued about the planes ‘holding hands’ or ‘high fiving’ each other. All joking aside, although it was only a minor collision, it’s likely to come with a pretty substantial repair bill.

According to the airport, runway 15/33 was temporarily closed, but only for around an hour, and has since reopened.

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Are on-ground collisions on the rise?

Minor accidents on the ground do happen from time to time, but there seems to have been a spate of incidents following the downturn in travel demand caused by the pandemic. Last month, a flydubai 737 collided with a Gulf Air plane at Dubai, and the month before, a Southwest 737 and Cargolux 747-8 collided in Chicago. Days before that, two Delta aircraft clipped wings in Atlanta, while in May, a Qantas retrojet was damaged by a baggage vehicle in Perth.

There has been some concern that the uptick in incidents could be a result of too few airport workers after many were furloughed or laid off during the downturn. Other schools of thought lay the blame on out-of-practice pilots or ground handlers, while outsourcing has also had the finger of blame pointed.

Read more: This System Will Reduce Airport Collisions By Up To 90%

Perhaps there isn’t as much of an uptick as could be perceived. Perhaps, in the slower pace of life we find ourselves in, these incidents are just noticed more often. Whatever the reason, it’s not a new problem and is one the industry is yet to effectively solve.

Companies are floating technical solutions that will reduce or potentially eliminate these problems. Evitado, for example, is developing a product that it says can reduce on-ground collisions by as much as 90%. For now, we hope that American and Alaska’s ‘high five’ didn’t cause too much damage and that the aircraft are able to get back to service soon.