Two airplanes belonging to the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences hit each other on the ground at Grand Forks International Airport on Wednesday, March 29. Fortunately, no one was hurt, although both airplanes sustained damage. Both planes were Cessna 172 Skyhawks.
According to Chief Flight Instructor Jeremy Roesler, the incident happened on the “Charlie” ramp, the largest of the tarmac areas for UND aviation. The aircraft that caused the collision was being operated by a student pilot preparing for a solo flight. The engine and propeller had been started, and the student went to grab something from behind them, accidentally taking their feet off the the brake pedals, letting the airplane move forward into the other one.
A student and their flight instructor were outside their plane doing preflight checks, and the spinning propeller missed one of them by mere feet.
“It was a close call,” Roesler said.
Fortunately, no one was harmed, although the solo pilot suffered from significant mental trauma following the incident,and the aerospace organization is concerned for their well-being, working to help them recover appropriately.
The rear airplane hit the tail of the parked Cessna, causing some damage, but had the propeller instead cut into the cabin, where fuel lines run down the sides of the plane, a more serious accident could have occurred.
“In my opinion,” Roesler said, “the most dangerous thing we do (at the airport) is the ramp.”
The Aerospace department has strict guidelines for students and instructors on the ramp, such as no running, no cell phone use, and no earbuds, but this incident shows an “unfortunate reminder,” as Roesler says, about the risk of aviation.
The two airplanes have been stored for insurance evaluation. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have classified the collision as an incident, but neither has released any report regarding the airplane fender-bender.
An aircraft incident, as described by the NTSB’s section 830, is any occurrence other than an accident, which is where serious damage and injury is caused, associated with the operation of an airplane, and could affect the safety of operations.
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