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747FOCAL
18th Mar 2004, 15:49
Errant landings at Sea-Tac cause alarm
Tacoma News-Tribune 03/18/04
author: John Gillie

Sea-Tac Airport is four years, several favorable court decisions and nearly a billion dollars away from completing its third runway.

Some errant airline pilots apparently haven't gotten that message.

Three times in a little more than three years - most recently on Jan. 19 - pilots have used the airport's westernmost taxiway as a third runway, the National Transportation Safety Board says.

That's a dangerous alternative because planes, airport trucks and maintenance vehicles use the taxiway, dramatically increasing the risk of an accident. No vehicles were on the taxiway when the misguided landings occurred, officials said.

The three flights were supposed to have landed on the nearby runway, "16 Right."

NTSB incident reports also show that during the same period, three other commercial flights nearly landed on the broad concrete taxiway, called "Tango" by the airport.

The most recent of those incidents was a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 flight from Oakland, Calif., to Sea-Tac on Feb. 24. That flight initially lined up to land on the taxiway. The co-pilot, who was flying the plane, at the last minute changed course to land on the adjacent runway.

The flight's captain, according to the NTSB incident report, didn't realize until the co-pilot corrected the course that the plane was aiming for the taxiway.

In the other two incidents, the pilot either changed course or aborted the taxiway landing and took the plane around for another try at landing.

No one was injured in any of the otherwise normal landings. But the Federal Aviation Administration, the NTSB, the Air Line Pilots Association and Sea-Tac Airport officials are concerned enough to take steps that the taxiway landings aren't repeated.

"We're very concerned," said Mark Coates, Sea-Tac operations manager. "We're going above and beyond the normal requirements to see that these taxiway landings never happen again."

Fortunately for those on the three flights - a Harbor Air Cessna 208 on Dec. 2, 2000; an American Airlines MD-80 jet on March 14, 2003; and an Air Canada de Havilland DHC-8 on Jan. 19, 2004 - the taxiway is lightly used. A major disaster could have resulted if the taxiway was occupied by another plane or vehicle.

Tango was built largely to serve the yet-incomplete third runway. It also serves Weyerhaeuser Co.'s corporate hangar and an aircraft tiedown and storage area at the south end of the taxiway.

The pilots said a combination of wet pavement, bright sunshine on the taxiway's south end and cloud-darkened pavement on the airport's north end made identifying the taxiway difficult.

Aviation safety consultant John Nance, who as a commercial airline pilot landed at Sea-Tac hundreds of times, said it's unlikely that such a mistake could happen under instrument conditions or at night. Each incident happened under visual flight rules during the daytime.

"If you get even 50 feet away from the centerline of the runway, you're warned when you're on instruments," he said.

At night, runways are delineated with white lights and taxiways are marked with blue lights.

Because the pilots in each case could see the taxiway before they landed, they likely would have seen any aircraft or vehicles using the taxiway and aborted their landing, Nance said.

Nance said the pilots' workload is high during landing. They can become fixated on targeting a spot to land and unconsciously ignore other clues that would have warned them they were landing on the wrong strip of concrete.

The taxiway parallels Runway 16 Right. It's just 600 feet west of that runway.

Even with his 13,000 hours of flight time, Nance said that once in a great while he's become confused when landing at an unfamiliar airport. On a trip to St. Louis, he was landing westward into the setting sun and visibility of the runway markings was obscured by the bright light.

Nance said he asked the control tower if he was properly aligned with the runway. The controller warned him that he was headed for the adjacent taxiway instead.

Taxiway Tango's north end is marked by a lighted "X" 11 feet by 25 feet across, Coates said. Pilots who landed on the taxiway said they didn't see the X.

Coates said Sea-Tac is taking extraordinary measures to end the taxiway landings.

The airport, for instance, is operating the sequentially flashing runway lights on Runway 16 Right 24 hours a day. It also is advising pilots in a recorded weather briefing that they listen to before landing not to confuse the taxiway with the runway.

The warnings about the taxiway also are being published in updated charts and notices to pilots.

"Collectively we're hoping that all of these measures will prevent the confusion," he said. "We've gone above and beyond what's required because we don't want this to happen again."
:ooh: :uhoh:

sanket_patel
18th Mar 2004, 16:09
We have a similar situation here in St-Hubert (CYHU) airport. Taxiway Tango is parellel to runway 24L. We did and still do have instances of pilots landing on tango, to correct this measure, the word TAXI is actually written on the taxiway and is clearly legible when on final for 24L. I've landed there hundreds of times but I can understand if an unfamiliar pilot gets confused, especially on a day where the sun is glaring right in front of your face and the pavement is wet.

http://www.tc.gc.ca/quebec/en/airports/sthubert.htm

Flying at night is not a problem as the taxiways and runways are well lighted.

Geffen
18th Mar 2004, 17:25
One thing, where the heck were the tower looking?

Musket90
18th Mar 2004, 23:25
At night aircraft have landed on a parallel taxiway at Gatwick twice in the past thinking it was runway 26R. The main runway 26L was closed for work, all lights off. 26R is visual only runway and pilots mistook green centreline lights of adjacent taxiway to be 26R thinking the actual runway lights on were 26L.

Measures have been taken to prevent this type of incident - the parallel taxiway lights are now designed to be visible in the opposite direction to an aircraft on approach therefore pilots won't see them. Also ATC have a radar based approach aid in the tower which gives audible alarm if aircraft on approach is not on correct runway extended centreline.

Daylight can be a problem for pilots mistaking wide taxiways for runways or getting confused as to what is the correct runway to use. The approach aid mentioned above is a good preventative measure. Also surface movement radar, which primarily is for low vis operations, is a very helpful tool for controllers to check aircraft are routeing correctly on the ground.

cribble
18th Mar 2004, 23:52
There is a similar potential problem at AKL. A taxiway parall to rwy 23/05 was upgraded to runway standard to allow structural work on the main runway.

The setup now has rwy 05/23 R & L. The 05L/23R rwy is only used as a rwy when construction is going on (about 2 months each 2 years, it seems). The rwy markings are there all the time however, and the potential for F/U was recognised early in the planning process.

As a threat mitigator, there is a bloody great "x" in bright lights just short of the threshold of the inoperative rwy, on all day, every day (no need at night because the rwy lights make the correct place to land pretty evident to even the most fatigued pilot).

broadreach
19th Mar 2004, 00:38
Geffen, from a mile away in the tower one might not be able to see whether an landing aircraft is lined up with the runway proper or with the taxiway.

Loose rivets
19th Mar 2004, 02:35
Wasn't there a time, probably in the days of Yaw....groan...that a huge arrow was painted on a gasometer at LHR? The idea being to help at times when all radio aids were turned off, no doubt to give the pilot's pinkies a rest from those brutal metal knobs on the centre console.

Even as a six year old, I knew these giant cylinders rotated as they filled with gas...yep the arrow pointed somewhere else. Well, that's if the story was true...but it was reported in a broadsheet.

hobie
19th Mar 2004, 08:56
do I remember many years ago the wrong Gasometer was identified and low and behold, RAF Northolt was host to a very large passenger Jet ??? .......

Musket90
19th Mar 2004, 09:06
Yes - It was a B707 - can't remember which airline.

Long time ago an Aviaco DC9-30 on visual approach to Belfast Aldergrove easterly runway mistakenly landed at a small airfield nearby called Langford Lodge.

keendog
19th Mar 2004, 09:11
The Gasometer is still there pointing at 23
It is bright blue and the arrow together with "LH" in thirty foot letters is clearly visible from the adjoining railway line when outbound from Paddington

brakedwell
19th Mar 2004, 10:51
The "Northolt 707" belonged to Air India. They had to strip out all the seats to reduce weight for the take-off. At the least the passengers had less distance to travel into "Town'.

Seloco
19th Mar 2004, 11:50
It's always good to see the saga of the London gasholders revived. There used to be two of them, each in roughly the same alignment to, and to the east of the respective runways at Heathrow and Northolt (and, by the way, they were both of the same, non-rotating design).
After the 707 incident, the plan was to paint a huge NO on the Northolt one, but I guess some party-poopers prevented the inevitable YES on the Heathrow one, which therefore, boringly, had LHR instead.
Sadly the gasholder aligned with Northolt was demolished some years ago, so no-one can see the NO any more.............

Geffen
19th Mar 2004, 19:08
After watching thousands of planes land you kinda get to know where your runways and taxiways are in relation to each other, okay maybe different at airports other than heathrow, but then again, an aeroplane making and approach is pretty much in the same place each time for a specific runway. now in low vis without modern aids to see where the planes are i can see the problems but then in that scenario taxiways don't have approach lights!

DA50driver
20th Mar 2004, 00:35
I am a corporate pilot who flies into SeaTac approximately 3 times a year. I arrived there in very similar situation as the dash8 crew did and it hard to distuinguish betwwen runway and taxiway. However, I had read about other pilots problems at this runway and was aware of the potential problem. We landed on the runway part.

Pay attention if you ever have to taxi to Signature at SEATAC though. It is not marked very well over there. It is quite easy to end up at the lumbercompany's ramp(or so I have been told*))

Loose rivets
20th Mar 2004, 06:51
A NON-rotating gasometer?!! darn, I've been dining out on that story for years. Still, there was always Hatfield for Luton in the early days of DAN and Courtline.

PA28Viking
21st Mar 2004, 20:35
One Danish fighter pilot years ago landed on the wrong (parallel) runway at Karup AFB in Jutland, Denmark. The parallel doubled as taxiway.

Didn't hurt his career though. He later managed to get 8 years as Chief of Defence from 1996 to 2003