Plane hit van parked on taxiway while driver made delivery to local café

Piper PA-28-161
JessicaGirvan /

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has published a report explaining what caused a Piper PA-28-161 to hit a delivery van parked on an airfield taxiway. 

According to the AAIB on March 22, 2023, at 1:00 pm at Sandtoft Airfield, Belton in the United Kingdom (UK) a pilot was preparing to return to Gloucester having arrived earlier in the day. 

As the 32-year-old pilot proceeded to taxi from his stationary position, a van, which did not have permission to enter the taxiway was parked on Taxiway A. 

According to the AAIB report the driver was inside the local café making deliveries.  

The pilot of the Piper PA-28 believed he had enough room to pass between the van and another aircraft parked partly on the taxiway but ended up clipping the wingtip on the side and wing mirror of the vehicle. 

The port wing navigation light and casing were damaged and there was paintwork scuffing to the wing tip area, while the vehicle had damage to the right panel and below the right-wing mirror. 

Although the delivery driver was accompanied by another staff member who had been to the airfield before, he told the AAIB that there was no signage or barrier at the entrance and that it was common practice for the drivers to park behind the cafe. 

He did not realize that he was on the taxiway or that permission was required to enter the airfield. 

The pilot reported that he felt there was enough room for him to pass the van, but the AAIB said in its report that it can be “difficult to judge the space available against the wingspan from inside the aircraft”. 

The AAIB concluded that there had not been enough room for the aircraft to pass the van and the delivery driver had not gained permission to park on the taxiway (and probably was not insured to do so either). 

As a result of the incident the delivery company has instructed its drivers to park in the car park for deliveries rather than entering the taxiway. 

“The airfield operator will review the signage at the entry to the airfield to ensure it is appropriate for ensuring users are aware they are entering an active airfield,” the AAIB said. 

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