Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lear 35A departs IAD on closed runway, NTSB investigating

NTSB logoThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating an incident in which a Lear 35A took off from a closed runway at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). No one was injured, and there was no damage to the aircraft. FAA records show that the aircraft is registered to National Jets, Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Here is a summary of what happened, according to the NTSB Advisory about the IAD incident, issued today:
On September 12, 2007, about 3:13 a.m. EDT, the Dulles tower controller cleared a Learjet 35 (N66NJ) for takeoff from a closed unlit runway. Earlier in the evening, runway 19R was closed for surveying and the runway lights were turned off. The tower controller instructed N66NJ to taxi into position and hold, then cleared it for takeoff. The departure controller at Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control, located in Warrenton, Virginia, noticed the radar target depart runway 19R and asked the tower controller if the runway was open, and was told no.

The closure was advertised on the automated terminal information service and the tower controller placed an X on the tower's ground radar display as a reminder of the closure. The closure also was annotated on the tower status display.
The NTSB Advisory noted that there was only one controller in the cab of the ATC tower at the time of the incident. The second controller assigned to the shift was on break.

The FAA has classified this incident as an operational error, however by the ICAO definition just adopted by the FAA this month, the incident would be classified as a runway incursion.