Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Update on the Allentown airport runway near-collision in September

ABE Rwy 6, Sep. 19, 2008, NTSB photoTh U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued an update on the near-collision between a regional jet and a small general aviation aircraft at Lehigh Valley International Airport, Allentown, PA, this past September. The update includes a time line of events, and a photo (at right) of the tire marks made by the jet as it swerved to avoid a collision with the smaller aircraft.

Readers will recall that on the evening of September 19, 2008, a Canadair CRJ-700 aircraft (registration N506MJ), operating as Mesa Air Shuttle Flight 7138, was preparing to depart Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) for a scheduled passenger service to Chicago. The CRJ aborted take off from runway 6 at ABE due to what the NTSB has classified as a runway incursion. According to factual information provided by the NTSB, the CRJ rejected takeoff at a speed of about 120 knots (138 mph), skidding around a Cessna R172K (registration N736GV) that had just landed and was still taxiing on the runway. The crew of the CRJ estimated the distance between the two aircraft as 10 feet when they passed.

The CRJ had four crew members and 56 passengers on board; the Cessna was carrying a pilot and two passengers. No injuries were reported, and neither aircraft was damaged.

Today the NTSB released an advisory that included the following timeline of the near-collision incident:
7:29:28 - Cessna contacts Allentown tower while about 8 miles east of the airport.

7:33:30 - Cessna, in landing pattern for runway, is cleared to land on runway 6.

7:34:50 - Mesa Air regional jet contacts tower and reports ready for takeoff and holding short of runway 6. Controller instructs pilot to hold short of runway 6 for landing traffic.

7:36:15 - Cessna crosses threshold of runway 6 and lands.

7:36:27 - Mesa Air instructed by tower controller to taxi into position on runway 6 and hold.

7:36:36 - Tower controller asks pilot of Cessna where he intends to park. Following pilot response, controller provides taxi directions, instructing pilot to exit runway
at taxiway A4.

7:37:11 - Mesa Air cleared for takeoff.

7:37:18 to 7:37:32 - Controller turns attention to an inbound aircraft and issues landing instructions.

7:37:34 - Cessna pilot informs tower controller that he had missed the A4 taxiway and asks for permission to exit at taxiway B.

7:37:42 - Controller replies, " delay, turn immediately," which Cessna pilot acknowledges.

7:38:16 - Mesa Air radios tower controller: "We got it, tower - we're going to need to go back to the gate."

Following the incident, both aircraft taxied to parking. The Mesa Air crew elected to cancel the flight and have the aircraft inspected. The Cessna taxied to general aviation parking and concluded the flight.
Today's report included the photo above, showing tire marks created on the left side of the centerline by the Mesa Air regional jet as it veered around the Cessna.

NTSB investigators have interviewed the pilots involved in the incident, and the air traffic controllers on duty at the time of the incident as well as the FAA tower managers. To date, the NTSB has released factual information about the incident, but has not issued a final report that includes probable cause.

It should be noted that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) issued a statement claiming that the control tower at ABE was staffed by unsupervised trainees at the time of this incident. NATCA suggests that at least part of the blame for this serious runway incursion incident lies with the control tower staffing policies of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

[Photo Source]