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Near Miss Led to 2022 JetBlue Tail Strike Incident
The NTSB published its final report on a near-miss incident involving a King Air and JetBlue A320.
On Jan. 22, 2022, JetBlue flight 1748 (N760JB) departing Hayden-Yampa Valley Airport (HDN) experienced a tail strike during takeoff while attempting to avoid a Beechcraft King Air (N350J) landing on the opposite runway.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the incident has now concluded, revealing a complex interplay of miscommunication and expectation bias at the root of the near-miss.
The final report identified several key factors contributing to the incident. The incoming King Air aircraft used non-standard phraseology on the airport’s common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), a frequency pilots use to communicate at airports without operating control towers. Notably, the King Air pilots omitted crucial details like the specific runway it intended to use (“28” instead of “runway two eight”). This ambiguity sowed seeds of confusion for the JetBlue crew.
The JetBlue crew, lacking extensive experience with non-towered airport operations, interpreted N350J’s initial calls as an intention to land on the same runway (10) from which they were departing. This pre-existing assumption, combined with the limited information available, led to a misinterpretation of the King Air’s true intentions.
As the JetBlue flight was preparing to depart, the King Air’s flight crew replied on the frequency that they were on a short final and stated, “I hope you don’t hit us,” according to the final report.
As a result of these factors, the JetBlue captain – who was the pilot flying at the time – was surprised by the unexpected head-on traffic and reacted by rotating the 15-year-old Airbus A320 24 knots early, exceeding the recommended pitch limit and causing the tail strike.
The JetBlue flight diverted to Denver following the incident. In its report, the NTSB classified the aircraft’s damage as ‘substantial.’
The NTSB determined the probable cause of the incident to be the captain’s premature rotation upon encountering head-on traffic. Importantly, the investigation also identified miscommunication from N350J and the JetBlue crew’s expectation bias as contributing factors.
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