They are the aviation equivalent of fender benders.
But citing 12 incidents since 1993 in which large airplanes' wingtips collided with other planes or objects while taxiing -- including three recent accidents -- the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday it wants the federal government to require external cameras or other anti-collision aids on large aircraft if the pilot is incapable of seeing the wingtips.
Collision warning systems are now common in cars, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said, and they should be common in large aircraft as well.
In the three recent incidents, all under investigation by the NTSB, the pilots of the large airplanes "could not easily view the airplanes' wingtips from the cockpit," Hersman told the Federal Aviation Administration. Cameras or other anti-collision aids would assist pilots without requiring them to open the cockpit window and extending their head out of the window, "which is often impractical," Hersman wrote.
In a letter to FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta, the transportation board said an anti-collision aid, such as cameras that show a plane's wingtips, "would give pilots of large airplanes a clear indication of the airplane's wingtips... thus providing information to the pilots to avoid a collision."
The NTSB said large airplanes such as the Boeing 747, 757, 767, and 777; the Airbus A380; and the McDonnell Douglas MD-10 and MD-11 would benefit from such a system. It recommended the systems be installed on new aircraft and on older planes that need them.
The board also recommended the addition of cameras or other anti-collision aids on jetliners to the European Aviation Safety Agency, which sets standards for aircraft manufacturers in Europe.
Currently, the massive Airbus A380 aircraft has two exterior cameras which display the nose and main landing gear positions before and during taxiing, and an exterior "landscape" camera, which is primarily for providing exterior views for passengers. None of the cameras show the plane's wingtips.
The three recent incidents cited by the NTSB are:
-- May 30, 2012: The right wingtip of an EVA Air Boeing 747-400 struck the rudder and vertical stabilizer of an American Eagle Embraer 135 while taxing at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
-- July 14, 2011: A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 was taxing for departure when its left winglet struck the horizontal stabilizer of an Atlantic Southeast Airlines Bombardier CRJ900.
-- April 11, 2011: During a taxi for departure, the left wingtip of an Air France A380 struck the horizontal stabilizer and rudder of a Comair Bombardier CRJ701.
No injuries were reported in any of those accidents.