On a Sunday night at New York’s JFK Airport, an unsettling and potentially perilous incident unfolded as a JetBlue aircraft, fresh from its arrival, unexpectedly tilted backward onto its tail.
The aircraft in question, a seven-year-old Airbus A321, had just completed a four-hour journey from Bridgetown, Barbados, and was securely parked at the gate with the jetbridge connected to its front left-hand door when this unexpected occurrence happened.
Aviation insider @XJonNYC shared images on social media, revealing the aircraft in an uncomfortable posture, balancing precariously on its tail at a 25-degree angle, with its front landing gear suspended in mid-air.
Spanning almost 45 meters in length, the Airbus A321 stands as the longest model within the A320 series of aircraft. If the flight crew and ground staff do not strictly abide by the weight and balance regulations, this significant length can make it susceptible to such tipping incidents.
While such occurrences are rare, they are not unprecedented, and several factors could account for the peculiar tail-tilting incident that set the JetBlue plane on that particular Sunday evening.
Footage circulating on social media revealed that the front cargo hold door was open. This observation suggests that ground handlers might have been offloading cargo from the front of the aircraft while a substantial number of passengers were still situated towards the rear of the plane.
This discrepancy in weight distribution could have shifted the aircraft’s center of gravity to the rear, ultimately resulting in the tail tilt. Ordinarily, an onboard monitoring system is in place to alert pilots and ground personnel if there is a risk of the center of gravity shifting too far.
When such an alert is issued, passengers are instructed to remain seated until sufficient cargo from the belly hold has been offloaded.
It is essential to underscore that tail-tilting incidents have the potential to cause harm to passengers and ground personnel. Fortunately, there were no reports of injuries stemming from the Sunday night incident.
In an official statement, a JetBlue spokesperson elucidated the situation, stating:
“On Sunday, October 22, JetBlue flight 662 landed as scheduled at New York’s JFK Airport from Bridgetown, Barbados.”
“Once at the gate, due to a shift in weight and balance during deplaning, the tail of the aircraft tipped backward, causing the nose of the aircraft to lift up and eventually return back down. No injuries were reported.”
The statement continued: “Safety is JetBlue’s first priority; we are reviewing this incident, and the aircraft has been taken out of service for inspection.”