PKBWL report – Serious incident, Boeing 777-258 (4X-ECC), Warsaw Chopin Airport (EPWA), 15/02/2019

On 14 February, 2019, a HEAD status flight of the Boeing 777-258 (with 4X-ECC registration marks) was planned on the Warsaw (EPWA) – Tel Aviv (LLBG) route. The plane was scheduled to take off at 23 hrs LMT1. The final preparation of the aircraft for the flight took place on the BRAWO apron located on the military part of the EPWA airport.

The crew arrived on scheduled time. Prior to boarding, the Captain agreed with the headset operator that the aircraft engines would be started during the pushback towing operation. The route of the plane’s push-back and towing was agreed among the headset operator, the towing tractor operator and the military coordinator of ground movement.

The passengers arrived with a delay and at around 23:55, they began boarding.

During push-back, the crew started up the right engine. After several dozen seconds, the push-back was completed and the towing started.

The SCHOPF F210 towing tractor and universal J-TOWversa1-A towbar were used for push-back and towing. During the towing, prior to the right turn beginning, the right engine start-up was complete – the engine has reached the IDLE RPM. After a few seconds, during the right turn, the crew commenced the start-up process of the left engine. Moments later, in the mid phase of the turn, the left pin of the towbar was sheared off. In the end phase of the turn, the left engine start up process was completed – the engine reached the IDLE RPM. When both engines were on IDLE, the plane began to push the tractor and the tractor-plane combination increased the speed to 3 kt. A few seconds later the towbar folded, its right shear pin and retaining bolt were sheared off, which was followed by a collision of the plane with the tractor.

No person was injured as a result of the incident. The aircraft, tractor and towbar were damaged.

The direct cause of the serious incident was lack of reaction to the shearing of the towbar pin and the continuation of the aircraft towing.

Contributing factors:
1) Start-up of both engines during pushback-towing operation.
2) Setting of the towbar pins not compatible with the type of aircraft which was pushed-back and towed.
3) Fatigue of the ground handling staff caused by extended hours of work at night in adverse weather conditions.
4) Stress of ground handling staff due to servicing the HEAD status flight and procedures imposed by the operator.|

PKBWL has not proposed safety recommendations after the investigation.

Read the report.

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