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NTSB investigating bumping airliners on JFK tarmac

An aerial view of John F. Kennedy Airport

An aerial view of John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on April 15, 2011 in Jamaica, Queens. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The National Transportation Safety Board Monday said it will investigate the bumping of two aircraft on the tarmac Sunday at Kennedy Airport.

Royal Jordanian Airlines Flight 261, carrying 159 passengers, had just arrived from Amman, Jordan, when the plane's wing hit the tail of Delta Connection Flight 6087, which had 44 passengers from South Carolina and was operated by Indianapolis-based Chautauqua Airlines, officials said.

No injuries were reported in the 7 p.m. collision between the 50-seat Embraer 145 and the much larger Airbus A340, officials said.

The bump caused "substantial" damage to the smaller plane, bending its tail, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.

"We want to investigate all the circumstances that led up to this collision so we can determine if there's any type of recommendations we can make to lower the probability of an event like this occurring again," Knudson said.

A statement from Royal Jordanian called it a "minor incident" while taxiing: "There were no injuries and all people onboard didn't feel its impact."

The airline also said all aircraft are "usually guided upon touchdown by the control tower toward the gates where they are finally meant to park."

A spokesman for Republic Airways, which operates Chautauqua, told The Associated Press its aircraft was stopped when it was bumped from behind.

The spokesman said it was the nose of the Royal Jordanian plane that hit the Chautauqua aircraft's tail.

Knudson said the collision was classified as an "accident" due to the substantial damage, which means the agency must investigate, and not an "incident," in which the agency may choose to investigate. Details on damage to the larger aircraft were not immediately available Monday afternoon.

Putting outside cameras on planes to help pilots navigate has been recommended by NTSB to the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency, Knudson said.

"When you're in the front of the airplane on some of the big jetliners, it's very difficult to get a visual sighting of where that wing is in relation to other potential obstacles," he said.

Since 1993, the NTSB has investigated 12 incidents of planes' wings clipping another plane or objects while taxiing, according to a 2012 report from the agency.

In May 2012 at Kennedy, the wingtip of a Delta Boeing 767 being towed between terminals clipped a horizontal stabilizer on a second Delta plane. Both aircraft sustained minor damage, and no one was injured.

In April 2011, an Air France Airbus A380 clipped a Delta regional jet on the tarmac.

The A380, which was carrying 485 passengers and a crew of 25, had no reported injuries. There were no injuries reported on the Comair / Delta Bombardier CRJ 701, which carried 62 passengers and four crew.

The NTSB determined both planes involved in that collision sustained "substantial" damage.

-- With Laura Figueroa

and John Valenti

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