Southwest jet loses wingtip in airport brush up

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

NEW YORK (AP) — Some Christmas fliers got their wings clipped — literally.

Two jets at New York’s LaGuardia Airport got a little too close for comfort Tuesday morning, with one ripping the wingtip off the other. No passengers on either plane were injured.

American Airlines Flight 1104 from Dallas was taxiing to its gate just before 11 a.m. as Southwest Airlines Flight 449 to Denver was departing.

The left winglet — a vertical fin at the tip of a wing designed to improve airflow and fuel efficiency — was ripped off the Southwest plane after it made contact with the American jet’s left horizontal stabilizer, part of the tail. Both planes were Boeing 737s.

American spokesman Joshua Freed said in an email that the airline’s plane “was taxiing with the help of ground personnel walking near each wingtip.”

The 143 Southwest passengers and five crew members exited the jet via stairs and were then taken by bus off the tarmac. The aircraft was taken out of service for inspection and repairs. Southwest is finding alternative ways to get the passengers to their destination, according to spokesman Brad Hawkins.

The American plane, with 143 passengers and six crew members, made it to gate D7 and passengers left the aircraft via the jet bridge. The return flight to Dallas has been delayed at least 3 hours.

The Southwest jet moved out of the taxiway on its own power, according to Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Marsico said there are no other delays because of this accident and that the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating

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Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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