AUSTIN (KXAN) — “I think we got hit,” an American Airlines pilot can be heard saying in newly released air traffic control chatter from the moments after his plane made contact with a United Airlines plane at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Wednesday night.
“Oh, yes you did,” another person confirmed.
“You guys are perfect, you were sitting there, you just got hit by United,” another person can be heard saying.
The pilot expresses concern about his tail due to having an auxiliary power unit turned on and someone assures him it looked like the plane’s right stabilizer was the area damaged.
“There’s a chunk of something laying off your tail but the APU is running just fine, there’s no leaks or smoke,” the voice says.
The United flight 898 — from Austin to Houston — was taxiing to the runway from gate 19 and the American flight was taxiing into gate 21 when the incident happened around 8:20 p.m.
American says their plane was stationary when the collision happened. United originally said that the other plane had run into them but released a new statement Thursday morning stating while their plane “was taxiing to the runway, one of its wings made contact with another aircraft on the tarmac.”
While the air traffic control chatter makes the situation seem clear, the Federal Aviation Administration has not yet said exactly who was to blame for the collision.
FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford said encounters between planes happen but they are “statistically rare.” The agency said that since 2002, it has tracked 59 wing clips among planes nationwide, of those four were in Texas.
A passenger of the United flight, Cody Strickland, said the pilot came over the intercom after the collision and acknowledged it was his fault. They were already 30 minutes delayed when it happened.
“It’s scary, isn’t it,” Strickland, who is a former KXAN News producer, said. “And this was only 10 miles an hour. Imagine if you’re speeding down the runway.”
On the United flight there were 105 passengers and crew members and there were 149 passengers and 6 crew on the American flight.
Strickland said the United flight was towed back to the gate after more than two hours waiting at the collision scene. He said many of the passengers had to make other travel plans.
“I don’t know how you clip the plane,” said Strickland. “So, I don’t know if this is a lighting issue at ABIA. I don’t know if this is a matter of the tarmac being too close to the gates. But, it’s really scary if the pilot can’t see where he’s going.”