A few weeks ago, I wrote about the damage done to a cargo plane at Chicago O'Hare. I thought it would be interesting to take an updated look at this situation since there is more information about what happened.

Qatar Airways Cargo 777 hits light pole at airport

On Friday, August 5, 2022, the registration code A7BFH was damaged by a cargo plane. A seven year old plane just performed a cargo flight from Atlanta to Chicago and was about to land at the airport.

A plane hit a pole. We are talking about more than just the plane not getting clearance by a few inches.

In a statement, the airline confirmed the incident.

“Qatar Airways can confirm that a cargo aircraft, QR8141 operating from Atlanta to Chicago, came into contact with a light post while taxiing at Chicago O’Hare and sustained some damage to the wing. The incident is currently under investigation and we can confirm that no crew members were injured.”

There are 26 Boeing 777Fs in the fleet ofQatar Airways, which are freighter jets that fly all around the globe. The plane had just flown from Luxembourg to Atlanta and was supposed to go to Chicago and then Maastricht. The plane is still on the ground at the airport.

Are pilots or ATC to blame for this incident?

How could such a thing happen? It would appear that this happened because of a combination of a mistake by the air traffic controller and the pilots not researching the taxiways.

There is a video with the audio from the incident and a glimpse of what happened.

The communication before the incident was here.

Air traffic controller: “Alright, Qatari 67X, turn left on K, BB, give me an immediate left turn, and then I want you to go to Z and hold short of runway 9R.”Air traffic controller: “BB and then BB2.”

Pilot: “BB, BB2, Qatari 67X.”

The pilot of the airline is sheepishly saying this.

“Ground, Qatari 67X. I think we hit a pole with our right wing.”

Here's the issue.

  • The communication between the air traffic controller and pilots was strange to begin with, as two different sets of instructions were given with two separate transmissions, and it was never started that the second transmission would replace the first one; I almost wonder if the second transmission was intended for another pilot, but something got cut off
  • A Qatar Airways pilot did read back the instructions, including taxiing on runway BB2, and no correction was issued
  • The catch is that if you look at any O’Hare taxiway chart (including this one), there’s a clear warning that taxiway BB2 is closed to planes with a wingspan of over 36 meters (the 777 has a wingspan of over 60 meters); for that matter, pilots are supposed to constantly be scanning their surroundings while taxiing

I think there is enough blame to go around here.

  • The air traffic controller gave incorrect instructions, or at a minimum communication was mixed up, and the controller didn’t catch the pilot reading back the instructions he heard
  • Ultimately the pilots are responsible for the safe operation of the plane, so even if they’re given instructions, they should still be reviewing their airport charts, so that their plane doesn’t get on a taxiway with limited clearance

I want to know how long it will take to fix this plane, or if the damage is so bad that it can't be fixed in a reasonable time frame.

When both parties share fault, who picks up the tab? Is there a sense of how this would be handled for OMAAT readers in aviation insurance? I think I'm not the only one who's curious.

We haven't seen anything like this with a cargo jet at Chicago O'Hare since earlier this year, when a China Airlines cargo plane lost control in the snow and hit a bunch of equipment.

Bottom line

The plane hit a light pole while taxiing to the arrivals stand at O'Hare Airport. The air traffic controller may have given incorrect instructions to the pilots, but they should have consulted their charts and noticed that they were taxiing on a restricted taxiway.

The plane is out of commission. I don't know when it will fly again.

What do you think about this?

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