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Commercial Pilot Lands at Wrong Field

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Commercial Pilot Lands at Wrong Field

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Old 12th Sep 2011, 09:22
  #21 (permalink)  
 
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When I flew the B707 for BOAC back in the 1970s there was an item on the landing check which said "Airfield and Runway......Identified and Crosschecked"!

We could add to the list a BOAC VC10 which landed at Sharjah instead of Dubai - many factors but the crew had extended duty and had been on something like 15 hours.

Just for the record the a/c which landed at Ballykelly instead of Derry belonged to Eirjet operating a Ryanair flight (ie not actually a Ryanair a/c, crew etc).

Last edited by fireflybob; 12th Sep 2011 at 14:57.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 09:41
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The airport authorities / FAA etc have to take responsibility for these incidents too. Where there is a risk of this type of incident occurring (or when it has previously occurred), a note on a Jepp chart or additional lighting to differentiate the airports may prevent further incidents.

For example, YMML (Melbourne, Aust) vs YMEN (Essendon): YMML has notes on the STARS cautioning the similar runway orientation at YMEN and additional white strobe lights confirming the final approach to YMML are also installed.

As for solely "looking out the window" when flying a visual approach on a modern jet, and not using aids / map display and in multi-crew aircraft for the PNF not to have a look at a DME/height check etc etc.... The 100's of people sitting in the back deserve better than that.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 10:22
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I may b e wrong, as usual, but I seem to recall that several aircraft
have landed at Northolt rather than Heathrow?
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 10:50
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Its not just landings that can be embarrassing
Didnt a USAF B52 do a flyby at Blackbushe not the Farnborough airshow a few years ago. I saw that myself but use the questioning tone since there were suggestions he had dodgy ATC vectors and the turn to the EGLF centre line was too tight at low level.

Also some years back the daily BA ( DC10 I think) to Bermuda lined up to land on a very short disused runway at kindley field and then shook everyone up in the sleepy little town of St Georges as he went around. Looking for a runway on base leg ,sees a runway, starts approach-had he stayed on the base leg another 30 seconds he would have seen a very long runway on the other side of the low hill that hid it from his view earlier.

it always amazes me as a pax how runways just do not stand out from the surrounding terrain a few miles out unless all lit up and how tiny they look from a typical 2000 ft 6-7 miles out final approach intercept.

PB
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 11:32
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Storming,
You are not wrong. Like me, though, perhaps a little old with a half decent memory. So many commercial planes fancied landing at Northolt instead of lhr that a very large NO with a arrow was painted on a very large gasholder at South Harrow. I'm not sure whether it could be seen in the dark.
back in the 50s there were some scheduled flights to Northolt, so maybe doddery ex-RAF types were simply going where their memory told them......
...and as for some Navigators, I was at farnborough, awaiting a B52 fly-past, when the B 52 decided to fly-past Blackbushe instead.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 12:11
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Milt

I have also spent most of my life in the Southern Hemisphere either at sea or in aviation and found exactly the same thing when living in Canada and Europe - I invariably turn the wrong way! I have decided that it is because the sun is in the "wrong" position.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 12:16
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Mistaking Northolt for Heathrow

I sat in Northolt tower one blustery morning nearly half a century ago(!) when Heathrow were using 23L (now a taxiway) and was surprised how close and low their traffic was when crossing the final approach for 26 at Northolt. Later that same day, after I'd left, as passenger in an Aztec, Air France made their notorious mistake!
Just to be clear, the NO and LH arrows were added to the respective gas holders after that time, I think, 1964. The Uncle Roger column in Flight Magazine did a good parody about how NO meant "no" if you wanted Heathrow but NO meant "yes" if you wanted Northolt and LH being "yes" for Heathrow but "no" for Northolt!
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 12:46
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 12:47
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Just for the record the a/c which landed at Kerry instead of Derry belonged to Eirjet operating a Ryanair flight (ie not actually a Ryanair a/c, crew etc).
Kerry rather than Derry would have been a spectacular navigational error. Considering one airport is in the the North and the other in the South West of Ireland! I believe the airfield in question was the disused Ballykelly and it was a wet leased Eirjet A320.

Almost as bad as the RYR pilot who landed on a taxiway a few years back.
This was Cagliari I think. Parallel runway system with one runway closed and utilised as a taxiway. You had to make an approach to the closed runway and sidestep. I guess that never happened.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 12:50
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What this shows me is that all human beings are capable of making incredibly foolish and extremely dangerous mistakes, even though they may be very talented individuals. You will find that many of the people who made these errors have been subject to rigorous selection processes, intense and high quality training and had many years of incident-free flying. They had no desire other than to the best they could be that day and certainly would have been mortified if they knew what they were about to do. It would probably also be true to say that they would have been joining the mockers on here berating the idiots who had done such a stupid thing had it happened to someone else.

What this tells me is that we can all do it. Therefore, we have to build-in anti-error strategies into our flying. The first one seems to me an inclusion of a threat-error management section in our briefs. That means we identify nearby airfields that could cause us to mis-identify our true destination. Also, the use of navaids for visual approaches in a commercial airliner just seems total common sense - yet another protection in place to save us from ourselves! I am more than happy to concede that, given the right combination of circumstances, I could do this - my only question is how best to minimise the likelihood of it happening. I would suggest that humility may be the best approach to this - there but for the grace of God go I.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 13:06
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How about the airliner that landed in the River Nile at Khartoum. Any truth in the story that the river was mistaken for the runway?
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 13:53
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There's a reason the snack bar at Ohio State U.'s airport (Don Scott field, KOSU) was renamed the "707 Room". Roger Bacon tells the tale.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 17:28
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You weren't, perchance, in the JS saying: "I reckon that's it in the distance there, Boss." ?
Ha, ha, no I was on another trip in one of the company's other aircraft. The funniest thing was I was standing in front of our hangar when they returned home (they were in Cancun for a week) and boss's girlfriend's kids came running up to me when they got off the aircraft yelling, "X landed at wrong airport, we're calling him 'wrong airport X' now." That was the first I had heard about it.

A month later I was a new chief pilot and X was no longer associated with the company.

Back then there was no long range navigation systems for business jets, all we had for navigation was VORs/DMEs and dual ADFs. So we used the ADFs for crossing the Gulf of Mexico when we got out of range of the VORs. When we got close enough to Mexico we would tune in the Cozumel VOR because it was more powerful than Cancun's. Then when we were able to receive the Cancun VOR on number two VOR, we'd change the number one VOR over to that.

Well that night, as they were getting in range of Cancun, the co-pilot reached over and changed the number one, or the captain's, VOR. Chief Pilot X, yelled at the co-pilot not to change his radio and changed it back to Cozumel.

He never changed it back to Cancun. So Don, the co-pilot, thought,
'okay, let's see what's going to happen'. Twice more Don tried to bring to X's attention that he was tuned to the wrong VOR and X ignored him. Don told me that it was a clear night, so he just sat in the right seat, talking to the Cancun tower and watched the Cancun airport pass off the right side of the aircraft, watched them fly back out over the Gulf, cross over the island's border, turn downwind, base and then they landed at Cozumel. All this time Don is talking to the Cancun tower and the Cancun tower is tell the Cozumel tower what is happening.

The Cancun tower even relayed to Don that the Cozumel tower cleared them to land. All of this was completely ignored by Chief Pilot X. Don told me that the Cancun tower basically said, 'Tell the fool flying he is cleared to land at the wrong airport.'

Things improved greatly after I took over.

Oh, if you knew 'Chief Pilot X', this story would not surprise you. He's still alive, how no one is really sure.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 17:50
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Not sure why my response to viking was deleted. I guess a certain famous encylopedia site is "verboten" as a memory aid. So be it.

Interesting that southeast Florida has FOUR airports with near-identical runway layouts in close proximity, but so far as I know, has not had any wrong-airport landings.

KMIA, KTMB, KOPF, and KFLL all have east-west parallels with a crossing NW/SE runway.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 18:06
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Delighted to see actual pilots responding to this thread with plenty of there-but-for-the-grace-of-god stories, since the thread was in danger of being overwhelmed by the cluck-clucking nonpilots who haven't the faintest idea how easy it is to land at the wrong airport, particularly if you're operating single-pilot.

I once landed at a tower-controlled airport (Pittsburg, Kansas) thinking I was going into an uncontrolled field. Had plenty of radios aboard, but I didn't say a word, taxied back and took off. Never heard a word about it, fortunately.

Where I live, there are two runways roughly aligned east/west with each other, one at POU, the other about eight miles farther on, at SWF. Fly the VOR approach to SWF and the first thing you see inbound is that POU runway dead ahead... No surprise that a four-engine jet landed at POU some years ago and barely stopped before the no-overrun west end.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 19:20
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Thanks for the truthful stories

but-for-the-grace-of-god stories
By the grace of God this happened in US. Had it be in the third world there would have howls of derisive post about how stupid, idiotic or incompetent Asian/African/South American pilots are!

In Asia there are plenty of airfields close to one another, eg Sangley near NAIA, Sungsan near Taoyuan and lots of small military airfields near major Chinese and Korean airports. It can happen here too but the consequences will be quite severe!
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 19:39
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What kind of steps are taken against pilots in the US for such errors.?

Sen Inhoffe got off quite lightly for landing on a closed runway with workers and vehicles directly in his flight path.

And, yes, I agree.

He who makes no mistakes does nothing.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 19:51
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Depends where you wrongly landed and how bored the tower crew is. There are plenty of controlled fields in the U. S. that see maybe a dozen flights a day, believe it or not, particularly now that GA is half-dead. It's been awhile since I was involved in anything like that, but I suspect that if you quickly call the tower or FSS and apologize, explain what caused you to make the mistake, they'll just tell you to try not to do it again.

I speak as a GA pilot, of course. I'm sure it's quite different for air-transport pilots.

Senator Inhofe, by the way, tried to buy my Falco 10 years ago. I refused to sell it to him.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 19:56
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Thanks, I think you made a wise decision 10 years ago.
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Old 12th Sep 2011, 20:58
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By the grace of god

By the grace of God this happened in US. Had it be in the third world there would have howls of derisive post about how stupid, idiotic or incompetent Asian/African/South American pilots are!

In Asia there are plenty of airfields close to one another, eg Sangley near NAIA, Sungsan near Taoyuan and lots of small military airfields near major Chinese and Korean airports. It can happen here too but the consequences will be quite severe!
My dear Harry, this incident happened not to a major airline's crew and most of the truthful posters here are probably down to earth GA pilots. The legacy airline pilots in the first world are a different breed altogether, who in their own own little world can do no wrong.
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