Federal investigators say the tail of a JetBlue plane struck a Colorado runway during takeoff last year when the captain quickly pointed the jet's nose upward to avoid a head-on crash with a plane preparing to land on the same runway.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that the JetBlue captain pointed the nose of his jet up quicker than normal “due to his surprise about encountering head on landing traffic.”
The JetBlue captain and co-pilot said they never saw the other plane, but they veered to the right after takeoff to avoid traffic that was detected by the collision-avoidance system on their jet.
The NTSB said flight data indicates that the planes were more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) apart when the JetBlue Airbus A320 because its climbing right turn away from the airport.
The NTSB said poor communication by the crew of the other plane, a Beechcraft King Air 350, contributed to the Jan. 22, 2022, incident at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, about 25 miles west of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
The JetBlue crew cut short the planned flight to Florida and landed at Denver International Airport. No one was injured, but the NTSB classified the tail strike as an accident and said damage to the JetBlue plane was “substantial.”
The NTSB's final report comes as investigators look into several other recent close calls between planes at U.S. airports.