United plane clips a parked plane at Logan, as feds probe separate near-collision last week

Two United Airlines flights scheduled to depart from Boston's Logan International Airport on Monday made contact with each other near the gate area, federal aviation and airport officials said. (Lisa Poole/AP)
Two United Airlines flights scheduled to depart from Boston's Logan International Airport on Monday made contact with each other near the gate area, federal aviation and airport officials said. (Lisa Poole/AP)

Two United Airlines planes made contact near a gate at Logan Airport Monday morning, state and federal authorities said.

No one was injured when a plane bound for Newark, New Jersey, was exiting a gate and clipped a parked plane at a neighboring gate, a United Airlines spokesperson said in an email.

United Airlines Flight 515 was being pushed back from its gate by a tow tug at around 8:30 a.m. when its right wing hit the tail of the parked United Airlines Flight 267, according to preliminary information released by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The collision required United staff to tow one of the planes, according to Massport.

“Customers on both aircraft deplaned normally, and we’ve made arrangements to get them to their destinations on different aircraft," United officials said in the email. The two flights were rescheduled for later Monday.

Both of the Boeing 737s were taken out of service, United said in an emailed statement.

As state and federal authorities investigate, Monday's incident comes exactly a week after a Learjet charter pilot failed to follow a command from air traffic controllers, forcing the pilot of a JetBlue plane arriving from Nashville to abruptly change direction to avoid hitting the Learjet plane. No one was injured, but passengers were shaken by the plane’s sudden movement.

There were other recent close calls at other major U.S. airports, including at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas last month and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York in January.

The three incidents triggered federal investigations.

John Cox, a retired airline captain and CEO of Safety Operating Systems, an aviation consulting firm, said American airports typically see a few near misses each year, but their frequency appears to be increasing.

“We’ve seen a higher number this year, and I don’t know that anybody can specifically say why,” he said, adding he hopes the investigation into the Feb. 27 JetBlue-Learjet incident will shed some light on this question.

What we know about the 'close call' on Feb. 27

The National Transportation Safety Board did not release a timeline for its investigation, which the agency is conducting with the Federal Aviation Administration. But Cox said it could take months or even a year to complete.

The incident was labeled what’s known as a “runway incursion,” when an unexpected person, car or plane is in an area designated for aircraft that is landing or taking off.

The FAA provided diagrams for each airport that identify areas where the risk of collision or runway incursion heightens. Logan has four runway hot spots, according to the FAA. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has one hotspot. John F. Kennedy Airport has no identified hotspots.

According to former pilots and air safety experts, Logan holds a reputation for being a tricky airport for pilots to navigate. Cox noted that pilots must be “hyper vigilant” when flying in and out of the airport.

“And this is true not only for the pilots but also for the [air traffic] controllers,” Cox said. “They're aware that these incursions are more likely because of the geographic layout of the airport.”


To keep runways safe, it is essential for pilots and airline personnel to follow specific rules and procedures. Pilots are required to repeat the instructions given to them by air traffic controllers.

In a recording of the Feb. 27 incident at Logan, which was posted on an aviation website, an air traffic controller can be heard telling the pilot of the private jet to “line up and wait.” The pilot did not follow the command. The controller can then be heard telling the JetBlue pilot to “go around” to avoid colliding with the jet.

Cox said he anticipates the federal agencies investigating the Logan incident will review the air traffic control tapes to identify what caused the miscommunication.

“And that will be the crux of it — as to whether the flight crew just misunderstood it, or if there was ambiguity in the way that the controller instructed it, or could there be radio interference? They'll look at all of those aspects,” Cox said.

Francis Tainter, a research assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts’ Transportation Center, said close calls between aircraft are taken seriously by aviation experts and believes the incident will serve as a teachable moment.

“We have to take these instances and continue to work to have the communications strategies optimized so that these runway incursions don't happen anymore,” Tainter said. “And at the very least, not nearly as frequently as they have in the last several months.”

With additional reporting from The Associated Press

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated John Cox's first name. We regret the error.

This article was originally published on March 06, 2023.


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