The FAA and NTSB are investigating a Jan. 22 tail strike that appears to have resulted from evasive action taken by the crew of JetBlue A320 at an uncontrolled airport in Hayden, Colorado. The FAA has confirmed the tail strike and that it’s investigating. The NTSB is classifying it as an accident and is calling the damage “substantial.” The Aviation Safety Network is reporting the incident happened when the JetBlue crew spotted a King Air 350 on final for the opposite end of the runway on which they were nearing takeoff speed. “The aircraft became airborne in a hard right-hand banking turn and climbed away to the right of the runway,” the publication reported. “The flight climbed to FL310 and the flight crew decided to divert to Denver International Airport, Colorado, where it landed safely ….”

Aviation Safety Network says the King Air was about three miles out when the A320 started its takeoff roll and the two planes passed within about a half-mile of each other. The other airplane is owned and operated by an Oklahoma television service provider. Hayden-Yampa Valley is the airport that serves airlines and large business jets for those going to the Steamboat Springs resort area, about 120 miles northwest of Denver. It’s a CTAF airport with a Unicom frequency (123.00). Instrument approaches are handled by Denver Center. Weather at the time of the incident was cloudy with calm winds and a temperature of about 14 degrees F. 

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. “Hayden-Yampa Valley is the airport that serves airlines and large business jets for those going to the Steamboat Springs resort area, about 200 miles northeast of Denver. ”

    Hayden/Steamboat Springs/Yampa Valley (HDN) is 124 miles NORTHWEST of Denver

  2. I thought that at first too. But from the video, it appeared that they were airborne already? So did they hit the airport beacon? (Although the impact seems harder than what a beacon would make.)

    On another note, I wonder if this was overreaction? (No pun intended. (“Over Rotation.”)) A thousand years ago I was back taxing in a Cessna on the runway at KTAD for departure. After I was about half way down the runway, another aircraft (another Cessna) was coming at us on take off. (IIRC, we were monitoring the CTAF (“Unicom” at the time) and he – a local – never reported.) I could have taxied into the grass. And, upon reflection, maybe I should have. But the runway was wide enough that I simply moved over to the right, and he moved over to his right and it wasn’t close. I mean, we pass each other with about 5 feet between us in cars coming at us at speed. So a half mile separation in the report above seems like plenty of room to maneuver without going to extremes.

      • Thankyou for facts and basic arithmetic.

        (A320 speed may have varied a bit, they were beyond V1 decision speed it seems, normally would climb faster than V2 with all engines thrusting, might have rotated early (they’ll have a VR speed too, takes a bit of time to lift off after that though with both engines thrusting even at that airport altitude should perform well. But academic, only had several seconds is what you point out.)

        Doubt airliner crew could estimate closing distance and speed accurately, KingAir crew seemed oblivious (no report that they took action).

    • From the view out the window it did look like they were well off the ground, but I think that is how it would look if they were near the front of the plane and the nose was high enough for a tail strike.

  3. There are so many questions concerning what happened it is impossible to comment. Did ATC by mistake clear both planes at the same time? Did the Airbus leave before being released? Did the King Air cancel while still in IMC? Did the King Air call traffic in sight even though they did not actually see the Airbus on the runway? Why did the Airbus crew climb all the way to FL310 when it looks like in the video the plane hit something, before diverting? I have landed at this airport flying charters. Last time I was there I was following an Airbus landing, visually in the traffic pattern. Sure it is uncontrolled, but if normal IFR procedures and traffic pattern procedures are followed, should not be a problem. This incident (or accident as the NTSB classified this) will make an interesting report.

      • If the airport is IMC and the airplane departing is released for departure at the same time the landing aircraft is on approach. Not supposed to happen. The only time that could deliberately happen is the landing airplane cancelling IFR while in the traffic pattern or close enough to airport to report it in sight. Then ATC would acknowledge the cancellation and release the departing airplane, since the landing plane is no longer on an IFR clearance.

          • Ah thanks.
            Good old AvHerald.

            Simon works hard to get facts, sadly commenters are a worse bunch than AvWeb’s.

            Photo of scrape looks ugly, not major damage IF the structure behind the LE is not crumpled badly, pressurization a force factor. AvHerald article says crew were advised by Denver ATC that they’d had a tail strike (many people on the ground at HDN, no doubt, including ramp people waiting for the airliner).

            (Beware there is dispute in the AvHerald thread about authenticity of the photo for the incident airplane, some people are assuming all JetBlue airplanes are white at the damage location – not true. I expect Simon will doublecheck.)

            AvHerald article says KingAir was approaching to land on 28, which is opposite to the ILS I’d expect people to use when weather is poor. Good that the airliner saw the KingAir.

            BTW, radios are standard fit on KingAir 350s, unlikely lesser aircraft are in the air there in the reported weather.

          • AvHerald article says airliner was taking off on 10, so I’d expect the other aircraft should have been behind it to use the ILS.

    • Indeed, the report will probably provide lessons to learn.

      Besides the usual ‘pay attention!’ one.

  4. Wow … “The flight climbed to FL310 …”

    If ya hit anything – birds, runway, truck, UAS – ya need to return to Mother Earth ASAP.

    “… c’mon, man!” (Joe Biden)

    • Not a good source to quote, given he has same disease as Trump – mouth in motion before brain in gear.

      Crew has a choice, landing damaged aircraft in low minima conditions is not ideal, but ….

  5. The problem with straight ins at CTAF fields when there is more than one plane in the pattern…… Or something like that. I think Paul did a video about it.

    • If the weather is VMC your supposed to (but not mandated to) fly a traffic pattern in accordance with the AIM. As Graeme Smith points out straight in approaches don’t always work well with other traffic in the pattern even though there is nothing illegal about them.

  6. NWA had a bad tail strike in a Bus at DTW (about 20 years ago) following computer generated trim info that led to a severe nose-up mis-trim. The Captain of that flight is (still and active pilot) an excellent stick and rudder pilot. He saved the day for the pax and crew in DTW that day.

    Hopefully Avweb will publish a future article on this tail strike when the facts are determined.

    God bless.

  7. The weather seems to be a very interesting factor here. According to ASN the event occurred at 1857Z. I know the NTSB doesn’t need my help, but to satisfy my own curiosity I pulled up the following historical METARs from Ogimet:

    SPECI KHDN 221923Z AUTO 19003KT 10SM BKN003 M06/M14 A3035
    METAR KHDN 221856Z AUTO 00000KT 9SM OVC005 M04/M10 A3036
    SPECI KHDN 221826Z AUTO 22003KT 8SM -SN BKN005 M10/M13 A3037

    According to this, the ceiling was recorded as broken 500 at 31 minutes preceding the event, overcast 500 at 1 minute preceding the event, and broken 300 at 26 minutes following the event. This indeed raises questions as to why the landing King Air was in that position at that time, what CTAF communication had taken place, and what clearance (if any) the King Air was operating under.

    • Sort of makes a person wonder if the A300 was going to “pick up their clearance when airborne” and ATC wasn’t aware they were even on the runway. Either that or the A300 was way early on their release time. Since the field was not VFR, you know the King Air was either still talking to ATC or had just switched. Me thinks an A300 driver has some explaining to do. I’ll be surprised if ATC or the King Air crew has any culpability in this.

  8. I am shocked at the incompetence of some posters, who should get out of aviation.

    They blather about ATC clearance when the article clearly says uncontrolled airport.

    (ATC Centre Denver did clear the airplane to land but it has no visibility of the airport, that’s an IFR formality. Similar in Cranbrook BC where Calgary ATC cleared PW314 to land in IMC near limits but a snowsweeper was on the runway.

    That’s on top of speculators who have not looked at available information and do not have all knowledge.

    • Whoa – since when does Denver Center issue landing CLEARANCE? Only control towers do that in the USA, for the very reason the Center can’t see what is on the runway besides the plane they are talking to.

      • Ditto. Centers do not issue takeoff or landing clearances at uncontrolled airports. They only issue release and void times for the IFR takeoff window, which is supposed to correspond to the separation of inbound and outbound IFR traffic. Pilots are still expected to monitor and use CTAF.

        • You don’t need/ require a Radio to operate at these airports.
          See and Avoid is the rule of the day.

          Too many pilots believe that because they “self-announce” that they own the airspace, and have the “Right-of-way”
          They are severely misguided, and do not understand (or never read) the AIM

    • Control Towers provide landing clearance.

      Calgary Terminal did not, does not, provide landing clearance.

      Calgary Terminal was the IFR ATC unit responsible for IFR flights at Cranbrook.

      There was no Control Tower at Cranbrook.

      No landing clearance was issued at Cranbrook.

      • Was the case in Canada when Calgary ATC cleared a 737 for approach to Cranbrook.

        (I may not be precise about approach/land but with weather that low there is not a huge difference? PW34 had legal authority to land at Cranbrook.

        Need investigation report, I understand NTSB promised a preliminary report fairly soon.
        Communications will be key.)

      • Wayne:
        My memory from substantial involvement in the aftermath and from recently reading the accident report is that an ATC function out of Calgary gave the 737 authority to land at Cranbrook. That was in 1978.

        Expectation was that the crew would check in with Cranbrook Aeradio. An ATC function from Calgary followed up with Cranbrook Aeradio, having expected to hear if the flight had landed or made a missed approach, but by that time the airplane had crashed.

        Weather was near limits for the ILS.

        (You talk of Tower and Terminal but not an enroute centre, whose function included aircraft overflying at altitude as a CPAir one was around that time, and others such as a business aircraft from Spokane that was in the broad area. ‘Terminal’ word does not make sense for covering Cranbrook as it is far away from Calgary.

        Today lists an Area Control Centre and clearly shows an enroute service.

        [This post was incorrectly threaded to someone else.]

      • “Wayne somebody”:
        A poster in this forum advises that in the US today Center controls the airspace, not the ground, in IMC.

        The accident report on PW314 says Cranbrook was an uncontrolled airport without a control tower but within controlled airspace. The report states that ‘Calgary’ cleared the flight for the approach to Cranbrook, out of 18000 ‘Calgary ATC’ advised the flight to contact Cranbrook Aerradio which it did and received info including altimeter setting, and to report passing the Skookum beacon (about 7 minutes from the runway)

        In the Cranbrook tragedy the Aeradio station was improperly acting as a control tower, not authorized, not equipped/trained to do so. Snowsweeper depending on it, did not have radio to hear aircraft it it had called in. Calgary Centre had given Aeradio an arrival time estimate that was ten minutes in error despite the flight being within a minute or two of schedule in several previous weeks. IFR flight plan, standard routing, little other traffic. There was speculation that someone assumed other than straight-in approach, which may be useful for some ATC purposes as a block of time can be reserved before other traffic cleared but is not useful for the airport, but clearance was for a straight-in approach which IMO was appropriate with an ILS.

        As for ATC facilities, note that _today_ there is an Edmonton Area Control Centre and a Vancouver Area Control Centre, no Calgary one anymore.

        • But there are ‘Sectors’ within the ‘Areas’, one at Yellowknife for example which would be within Edmonton Area.

          Of course Area and Sector have many local radio frequencies, remotely used from and to controller. Today Cranbrook may be in a sector of the Vancouver Area Centre (it is west of those huge hills).

          With fancy communications organization, sector controllers can cover for each other or one controller can handle more than one sector.

          (Terminology changes and may be used somewhat variably. The accident report for PW314 uses ‘Calgary Enroute’ in transcript of voice comm. (Calgary Clearance Delivery, Calgary Tower and Calgary Departure earlier.) Calgary Enroute cleared the flight ‘to the Cranbrook airport for an approach’, and asked crew to report time down.)

    • Thank you Keith
      You are brighter then most of these dimly-lite bulbs.
      The most dangerous thing in the World is someone who believes they are intelligent–
      They know a little about a topic, the think they are right, but lack the complete knowledge to know they are wrong.
      You gave me hope today.
      Thank you

      • You are welcome.

        People may stumble, including me, but my objection is people who guess and speculate, many not familiar with aviation. Why are they here?

    • Keith, I thought I’d log on just to address your crappy extremely arrogant attitude. What is your problem? This forum is for any aviation enthusiast to read or communicate. It is only productive when civilized people converse and exchange ideas. It’s very educational. We learned today how big of a jerk you are. Hard to believe you’re a professional. Do use all a favor! Go back to your bottle and turn off your electronics! RICHARD!

      • My memory from substantial involvement in the aftermath and from recently reading the accident report is that an ATC function out of Calgary gave the 737 authority to land at Cranbrook. That was in 1978.

        Expectation was that the crew would check in with Cranbrook Aeradio. Calgary ATC followed up with Cranbrook Aeradio, having expected to hear if the flight had landed or made a missed approach, but by that time the airplane had crashed.

        Weather was near limits for the ILS.

        (You talk of Tower and Terminal but not an enroute centre, whose function included aircraft overflying at altitude as a CPAir one was around that time, and others such as a business aircraft from Spokane that was in the broad area.

        Today lists an Area Control Centre and clearly shows an enroute service.


    Today in Canada:

    In the Pacific Western Airlines B737 tragedy, there were no other airplanes in the area near the airport as weather was close to minimums for the ILS approach so all should have been under ATC Calgary control. However there was an Aeradio facility on the airport which was controlling the snowsweeper, unauthorized behaviour.

    737 touched down normally, deployed T/Rs, saw that blowing snow was not just wind, got airborne and was accelerating over the runway at 150 knots when the left T/R came open. Not controllable at that speed.

    Crew could have lived by ensuring contact with Aeradio, I have reason to believe they tried, various possibilities as to why they couldn’t contact Aeradio including snow on facility antenna (a phenomenon documented elsewhere years later).

  10. ASN’s article is confusing, says it shows path from Fort Lauderdale but its may shows only diversion path to Denver.
    Probably a hard-to-view something else on that page attempts to show Fort Lauderdale.

  11. It appears the airport was IFR. Will be interesting to see who screwed this pooch! The cockpit and ATC recording will be interesting.

  12. There is so much rudeness and “Get out of my way” at uncontrolled airports these days. It is amazing there are not more incidents like these.

      • I do in some Avweb threads, some ads are trashy.

        I don’t know whether scummies are horning in or AvWeb has become hungrier – more likely the latter as there is no reply button on the ads.

  13. KHDN is a Class E airport. So, if the weather was less than basic VFR, then Denver Center controlled all departures and arrivals.

    • It’s possible the KA pilot canceled IFR, if he had been on an IFR clearance, while in VMC long before landing. If he was still 3 miles from the airport when the A320 started takeoff roll it’s very likely DEN center either didn’t know about the Kingair, or it had canceled IFR much further from the airport.

      • Another poster gives wx as 500 foot ceiling or less, that is LOW in that valley surrounded by big hills.

    • VFR
      Calm winds– (Any Runway)
      No radio required
      UNCONTROLLED airport

      Guess who has Aircraft (Traffic) separation
      Responsibilities?? See and Avoid

      The PIC

      Doesn’t anybody read (and understand)
      The AIM

      • Another poster gives wx as 500 foot ceiling, which seems LOW in that valley surrounded by big hills.

        Which PIC? We await NTSB releases some details. IMJ Kingair should have been _behind_ the Airliner because it was on the runway with ILS.

        Others have pointed out that in IMC ATC controls the airspace.

  14. I’ve operated an airliner in/out of HDN. Denver center can’t see you below about 9000′. If a plane has been released by Denver, an inbound plane has to hold until Denver can see the outbound plane.

    Looking at FlightAware, the King Air was in/out of HDN a lot. Perhaps they had been given a long hold, and decided to cancel because they thought they could slip in (don’t know exactly why with the observed weather). In any case, Denver center cannot see planes until they are well away from the field. (I have no explanation for climbing to 31,000′ before deciding to divert).

    • You do know that an aircraft does not require a radio to fly into/out of these Uncontrolled airports?
      See and Avoid

      • Kingair comes with radios.

        Using them is the question.

        (Big problem in South America according to renowned John Deakin, aircraft on tracks they were not cleared for – so with GPS accuracy about John flew a bit off centreline in hopes other airplane was right on centreline.
        In NA, smugglers would likely stay dark and silent, but that’s more along the southern border, sometimes from oceans perhaps, sometimes along northern border. I don’t know what the small helo did when it was sneaking across the border to deliver intoxicants when it was flying to a work site just north of the border south of the upper Fraser Valley.)

        Odd that KingAir at Hayden-Yampa did not see lights of airliner in front of it. (Another investigation question, were its lights on, ground observers may have seen from shallow angle, may be in crew checklist on CVR.)

  15. Calm winds at an Uncontrolled airport–
    A recipe for disaster– an accident waiting to happen. The sad thing is it doesn’t require a radio to go into these little airports, but pilots will
    self-announce, and think they are good to go–
    But, they are not…You’ve got to use them Mark I
    Eyeballs, and look for traffic. See and Avoid–
    that King Air pilot should have “Noticed” a Jetliner on the damn runway!! Somebody wasn’t doing their job! Whenever a midair happens….You’ve got two PIC’s that weren’t performing their most basic responsibility of “See and Avoid”
    Good thing the airline crew saw the King Air
    (I am willing to bet the King Air pilot was oblivious, as to what almost happened)
    Be careful out there flying….We have the share the skies with these Nit-wits, who aren’t looking where they are going.

  16. I’m not going to blame anybody for reacting quickly in that situation. We’ll see what the investigation says, and likely have to speculate on any damage to personal undergarments.

    I know it’s been awhile since the whole “blip is a blip” attack on reason and civil discourse in the aviation community, but I hope everyone remembers this incident in case the sociopaths try it again. This is what can happen to airliners in a real situation where aircraft are treated equally instead of one where personal aircraft owners willingly and politely allow the FAA to treat the airlines as more equal than us in almost every aspect of regulation, system design, and management. Does anyone think Boeing products would be the same if see and avoid were the norm?

    We all understand the stakes, and we all comply with a system made to treat us as lesser. When that good grace gets taken advantage of it needs to be called out.

    • At Dawson Creek BC I was told that small airplanes just wanted to know where the 737 was in order to stay out of the way.

      But I met a guy who worked for an airline and was annoyed that ATC gave preference to the 737 in the Caribou.

  17. I’ve noticed a problem with some folks using uncontrolled/nontowered airports. Some guys, usually on a long straight final, announce their presence and intentions when they are 10 or more miles out, and that’s the last you hear from them until they’re on the runway. Students, on the other hand, seem to announce their presence/intentions frequently.

    I haven’t flown for years, and certainly not in this era of ADS-B. Wasn’t ADS-B supposed to prevent such events?

  18. It looks like the camera person has was near the tail of airplane? Watch how the camera moves when the bump or impact sound is made. It points downward as the airplane was stopped suddenly while going down as though the plane rotated upward abruptly abouit its main landing gear causing the rear of the fuselage to travel downwards until impacting with the runway.

    I wonder what the radio chatter was before the incident. No matter, everyone is safe and that’s good enough for me.