Investigators looking into the A380 and CRJ collision at JFK International got a lucky break: Someone was evidently videoing where the collision occurred using a cellphone camera. The rest of us got something astonishing to look at. What surprised me is how the force of the collision spun the CRJ nearly 90 degrees on its vertical axis. I would have expected it to get nudged pretty well before the top of vertical stabilizer sheared off against the side loading of the impact.
But evidently, that structure is a lot stronger than that. Photos of the tail damage to the CRJ (a 700) show that the tail is well trashed, but hardly sheared clean away at the top. Similarly, the A380 lost about a foot of its left wing, including the winglet. Think about the repair bill on that. Here's another video of the A380 damage.
The differences in weight probably have something to do with this. The A380's 610,000-pound empty weight is more than eight times the CRJ's max gross of 73,000 pounds. The weight Delta could be as much as 12-fold when you consider the A380 was fueled for takeoff and the CRJ had just landed.
Just looking at the A380's numbers makes me glad I'm not driving it around an airport like Kennedy. Because of its size, the A380 is limited in the taxiways and runways it can use, according to the airport's 36-page operating guide for the aircraft.
This document is worth scanning to gain a sense of how it complicates inbound and outbound ground controller operations. And actually, the more I read it and digested the taxi route and runway limitation, the more I got the impression that this airplane is just too big for the design constraints of airports like Kennedy. I wonder if all that effort is worth it. Given how JFK gets jammed up on the ground during peak periods, I also wonder how disruptive an A380 arrival or departure is. The last time I flew out of Kennedy two years ago, the 767 I was on blocked out on time, then required 90 minutes to get to the runway. This was pre-A380.
With a 262-foot wingspan, the A380 hangs over the 75-foot-wide taxiway by about 93 feet, which equals the entire wingspan of a Gulfstream V. Boeing is having similar challenges getting airports qualified for the new 747-8, with a 224-foot wingspan. Let me just pencil that one into my short list of airplanes I'd rather not have to taxi.
Skip, you earn your money before you even get to the runway. And a tip of the hat to inbound and outbound ground at any airport handling this giant.
To see an example of A-380 cockpit camera video, click here.