Planes collide taxiing at SFO gate

January 14, 2008 12:59:37 PM PST
The FAA is sending accident investigators to San Francisco International Airport to look into last night's near catastrophe. They'll be trying to find out why two passenger jets collided while taxiing away from their gates.

The good news is the passengers are unhurt and being taken care of -- they are being put up at local hotels by the airport and by the airlines. This crash happened at Terminal 3. A United Airlines 757 at Gate 80 backed into a SkyWest commuter jet at gate 79. Investigators will begin their look today into why this happened.

The United 757 was being taken out of service. It had no passengers on board. The SkyWest jet was carrying 56 passengers and four crew members. The 757 backed into the commuter jet.

"It's a serious event. These are large heavy aircraft that have passengers on board and they shouldn't be coming that close at all, let alone colliding," said Mike McCarron, SFO Spokesman.

The 757 was being pushed by a truck known as a tug. Two people were on the tug. But there were no wing walkers on the ground directing the tug.

"This is very coordinated; they have to have clearance from the tower before they can push back. They usually have wing walkers going around the wing to make sure they have clearance. So it's a very structured environment. Everyone has to go through qualification training, and they don't just walk out there on the first day," said Mike McCarron.

The 56 passengers were offered rooms at local hotels and will be put on the first available flight this morning, according to a spokesperson for the airport. One taxi way was closed briefly after the crash, but because there was light traffic, there were no delays.

An F.A.A. report released last October says that San Francisco International is one of the top 20 most dangerous airports in the nation when it comes to near collisions. Also on that list is San Jose Mineta International Airport. Between the two airports there were eight near collisions last year. Near collisions is one thing. The airport at SFO points out that in the past 17 years, there have now been two ground collisions.