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Hawaiian Sues FAA Over Damage to Alaska Aircraft

Two merging airlines still have one dispute to settle: Who should pay for damage from one airline’s aircraft to another?
Despite their planned merger in the near future, Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines have yet to settle the case of one airline's aircraft damaging the other's -- and who is to blame for the mishap.


Industry blog Paddle Your Own Kanoo reports Hawaiian Airlines is suing the Federal Aviation Administration over damage one of their aircraft caused to a now retired Alaska Airlines aircraft.


Hawaiian Alleges FAA Ground Controller Caused Incident After Approving Engine Run-Up

The incident took place on July 21, 2021, at Oakland Airport (OAK) in California. According to Hawaiian’s account of the incident, airline maintenance engineers wanted to do an engine run-up on one of their aircraft, but the airport’s enclosure was unavailable.


Instead, they claim the ground controller at the time directed the aircraft to a remote taxiway so that it wouldn’t cause any problems for other aircraft. When an aircraft tug came to move the airframe into place, the airline claims the FAA ground controller then changed their mind and told the maintenance crew to perform the engine run-up at their location. When they did, the jet engine blast threw debris and aircraft stairs into a nearby Alaska Airlines Airbus A320.


Alaska demanded that Hawaiian pay for the damages, totaling over $6.2 million. However, Hawaiian says the FAA should be held liable for that amount, because they blame the ground carrier for the errant instructions. The FAA has not responded to the allegations, and a judge has not ruled in the case.


The airframe in question was ultimately taken out of the Alaska fleet as they moved back to an all-Boeing fleet after their merger with Virgin America. It was ultimately sold to Allegiant Air last year.


In December 2023, the two airlines announced plans to merge in a $1.9 billion purchase deal. If the lawsuit were to fail, it could turn into a case of the airline paying itself back for its own damages – but a ruling is still pending.

Bobber395 June 28, 2024

The Maintenance Engineers have no control or authority of when and where they run the engine. If the airport knew their engine run up area was going to be out of service, they should have established procedures on where high power runs would be completed. The ATC controls should have been aware of the procedures. The maintenance engineers also do not have a birds eye view of everything going on like the ATC does. Sure they can eyeball it and think yeah that plane behind looks gar enough away. But the ATC controllers have charts and airport maps and know the exact distance. This was 100% ATC controllers fault. They have the ultimate authority of where maintenance engineers can run engines.

SamirD June 28, 2024

I think if a cop told me to run a red light and I did, I think an accident would be my fault because I didn't use my better judgement.  If it was clear that running up the engines would result in stuff flying away, they should not have done it even with clearance.  And imo any damage is their fault because of poor judgement.  It shouldn't take 3 years to get a judgement on this other than HA just trying to pay less than the full amount.

dliesse June 27, 2024

No, can't agree with HA on this one.  They still have 100% responsibility for the safe operation of their aircraft, whether on the ground or in the air.