As the Virgin aircraft, VH-YID, was pushing back from the Virgin domestic terminal for its flight to the Sunshine Coast with 175 passengers on board, the 737’s left wing came into contact with the stationary Jetstar aircraft, VH-VGR, which was waiting to park at a gate at the international terminal, causing damage to the A320’s tail cone.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating, and is likely to look at the air traffic control clearance for the Virgin aircraft’s pushback and the communications with air traffic control from the Jetstar pilots regarding their holding short of their designated bay.
The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Associaiton, meanwhile, has used the event to highlight safety concerns following recent decisions to remove ground engineers from assisting with pushbacks.
“The money they have saved over the past 12 months (by the changes) would have all been swallowed up as a result of this,” ALAEA president Paul Cousins was quoted as saying.
On the pprune website, ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas wrote: “Oddly it was last Wednesday that the ALAEA received a letter from Virgin declaring their intent to reduce the number of engineers in Melbourne to make way for more tarmac responsibility to be passed to ramp staff. Yes anyone can make a mistake but there are some key differences. No engineer will push a plane back for at least four years and the average one will have over 20 years’ experience. Rampies can be pushing aircraft out after six weeks, for most it is just a job until they find something better or their backs are shot.”
Argued Purvinas: “This would not have happened if they used wing walkers. The requirement for wing walkers on congested aprons is outlined in the respective aircraft maintenance manuals. Rampies cannot access maintenance manuals.”