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Originally published November 2, 2010 at 1:44 PM | Page modified November 2, 2010 at 7:19 PM

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2 tarmac workers fired over bumping of jets at Sea-Tac

Alaska Airlines contractor Menzies Aviation has fired two workers involved in the collision of two jets at a gate shortly before one of the planes was to take off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last week.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Menzies Aviation has fired two of its workers involved in the collision of two Alaska Airlines jets at a gate shortly before one of the planes was to take off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last week.

A flight leaving for Dallas was being pushed back from a terminal by Menzies employees when the tip of its right wing struck the left rear tail of an empty Alaska Airlines jet that had been scheduled to fly to Minneapolis. The empty jet was still at the gate. Alaska Airlines contracts with Menzies for these services.

A Menzies tug driver who was pushing the Dallas-bound plane pushed it too far, according to Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy. One of two "wing walkers," Menzies employees who walk beside the planes, saw the aircraft coming close to a second parked airplane and signaled the tug driver to stop. But the tug driver couldn't see the wing walker, and the winglet of the Dallas-bound plane struck the tail of the empty jet.

There were no injuries, and passengers were taken off the Dallas-bound plane and returned to the terminal.

McElroy said four Menzies employees were involved in the accident and two were fired, the tug driver and one of the two wing walkers. The four workers underwent a drug and alcohol test, which is standard procedure, and the results are not being released, McElroy said.

The right winglet on the Dallas flight was damaged, but it was repaired the day of the accident. The other plane had more serious damage and is still being repaired, but McElroy said it should be back in service Wednesday.

The incident occurred where gates D-1 and C-9 come together, and McElroy said it's a tight fit. Both jets were 737-900s, a long model. McElroy said the airline decided it would no longer park two long planes at those gates at the same time. The airline has 12 of those jets in its 116-plane fleet.

Menzies has had other problems since it took over ramp operations at Sea-Tac in 2005.

In 2006, a Menzies worker failed to report that he hit an Alaska jet with a baggage loader. Six passengers sued the airline over the incident.

In that case, the worker who bumped the plane with the baggage loader did not report the incident, and the plane was allowed to depart. Shortly after takeoff, when the plane reached 26,000 feet, a hole opened in the fuselage, causing the plane to rapidly depressurize. The plane made an emergency landing at Sea-Tac.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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