Pilot smashes into seven runway lights, keeps on flying
A passenger plane captain kept flying without alerting Auckland air traffic controllers even after smashing into seven runway lights, sending debris flying.
The Chilean LAN Airlines captain lost his bearings taking off from Auckland before correcting himself, an investigation has found.
The lights, standing some 30cm off the ground, were wrecked when the Airbus A340 carrying 196 passengers took off from Auckland in May 2013.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) published its final report about the rare "runway excursion" nearly three years later.
TAIC said that when the pilots were carrying out final checks before take-off, the captain "lost awareness of precisely where his airplane was" in relation to the middle of the runway.
Accelerating to take-off speed before sunrise on Saturday May 18, the captain realized the Airbus A340 was out of line with the runway center.
"He steered the airplane back onto the runway centerline and continued with the take-off. The pilots did not report the incident to air traffic control at the time," the TAIC report said.
The Airbus' tires trashed the lights.
"The runway was closed for 20 minutes while the debris was removed," the TAIC report added.
When the plane was inspected after landing in Sydney, two tires were found to be damaged and had to be replaced.
The Commission said the incident was a reminder pilots should report debris on runways immediately.
State-owned enterprise Airways Corporation owned the Auckland lights, which cost about $2500 to replace, Airways said at the time.
The TAIC report found guidance signs parallel to the runway caused a potential optical illusion, and the captain and first officer had no little time to realize the error.
The Commission also raised two broader safety issues.
The first related to intensity settings for airport lighting, the second to "administrative errors and potential ambiguity" in the way international standards for airport design and operations might be interpreted.
The TAIC said it told the Director of Civil Aviation and Auckland International Airport's chief executive about these possible issues.
The Commission said runway excursions had happened at Auckland only five times since 2005, and these mostly involved light, single or twin-engine domestic planes.
LAN Airlines publicly apologized for the incident within a fortnight.
The captain was experienced, with about 32,300 hours flying time experience.
The Federal Aviation Administration said runway excursions could happen for many different reasons, including unstable approaches and runway conditions.
Original article can be found here: http://www.stuff.co.nz
Report Details: http://www.taic.org.nz
Misaligned take-off at night, Airbus A340, CC-CQF, Auckland Airport, 18 May 2013
On 18 May 2013 an Airbus A340 aeroplane operated by LAN Airlines, Chile was making an early-morning departure from Auckland Airport for a scheduled return flight to Sydney. In addition to the captain and the first officer, there were eight cabin crew and 196 passengers on board.
It was dark but the visibility was good. The captain taxied the aeroplane from the gate toward taxiway A1 for a take-off towards the west. As the aeroplane neared taxiway A1 the tower controller gave clearance for it to line up on the runway. As the aeroplane was entering the runway the tower controller gave clearance for it to take off.
The two pilots performed the remaining tasks and before-take-off checks while the aeroplane was taxiing. The captain then turned the aeroplane sharply to line up with what he thought were the runway centreline lights, but which were actually the right-hand runway edge lights, and applied take-off thrust.
While accelerating towards take-off speed, the captain realised that the aeroplane was not aligned with the runway centreline. He steered the aeroplane back onto the runway centreline and continued with the take-off. The pilots did not report the incident to air traffic control at the time.
A routine runway inspection later that morning found that seven of the elevated runway edge lights were damaged and required replacement. The runway was closed for 20 minutes while the debris was removed. When the aeroplane was inspected after it arrived in Sydney, two of the tyres were found to be damaged and had to be replaced.
The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (Commission) found that at some point while the pilots were conducting last-minute checks and tasks before the take-off, the captain lost awareness of precisely where his aeroplane was in relation to the runway centreline.
The Commission also found that three other factors contributed to the misaligned take-off: the potential illusion created by the illuminated manoeuvre area guidance signs parallel to the runway; no other means were used to confirm positively the aeroplane's position prior to take-off; and the rolling take-off which reduced the time available for either pilot to realise the error.
The Commission identified two broader safety issues relating to: the intensity settings for aerodrome lighting; and administrative errors and potential ambiguity in the way relevant International Civil Aviation Organization standards for airport design and operations might be interpreted. The Commission could not determine whether either of these safety issues contributed to the incident. Nevertheless, the Commission has made recommendations to the Director of Civil Aviation and the chief executive of Auckland International Airport Limited to address these safety issues.
Key lessons arising from this inquiry are:
- entering an active runway is a critical phase of flight. Pilots must give the manoeuvre their full attention and use all available means to confirm that they are lining up in the centre of the correct runway
- it is essential that pilots report as soon as practicable any suspicion that a runway is contaminated with debris.