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Vancouver Airport: 2 jets clip wings on tarmac

A United Airlines plane clipped wings with a WestJet aircraft Thursday morning on the tarmac at Vancouver International Airport, leaving both planes damaged and unable to fly.


The incident happened while the United Airbus A319 was being towed into Gate 77 of the airport’s international terminal.


United spokesman Charlie Hobart said there were no customers on board the aircraft. He also said both planes were being towed at the time.


But in a statement, WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart maintained the Westjet aircraft was stationary during the collision.


Crew members shaken


Westjet also said there were no guests or crew on board its aircraft.


A witness who was waiting to board the plane said crew members he spoke to were visibly shaken and described the incident as feeling like “a big earthquake.”


Emergency responders attended the scene but an airport spokesperson said there were no reports of injuries.


Hobart said United didn’t know how the collision happened.


“Our aircraft was being towed from one gate to a different gate,” he said. “They did come in contact with one another and authorities on the ground are still trying to determine how and why.”


Grounds crew guidance


Hobart said that empty planes docking at a gate are subject to the same rules and grounds-crew guidance as an aircraft full of passengers.


“The grounds crews are all professionals,” he said. “I can’t speak for the folks in Vancouver, but in terms of this kind of incident happening, it doesn’t happen very often.”


Hobart said a different United Airlines plane would take the place of the damaged Airbus A319 that was scheduled to fly to San Francisco later today.


WestJet said it was also bringing in a replacement plane.


“WestJet Flight 1722, Vancouver to Palm Springs, experienced damage to a winglet when it was struck at low speed by another aircraft being towed to a nearby gate,” read the statement.


“Flight 1722 was cancelled and guests are being re-accommodated on another aircraft, which was expected to depart approximately three hours later.