Friday, 7 December 2018

Norwegian 787 took off from the wrong part of Gatwick's standby runway......

A Boeing 787, registration G-CKWC, belonging to low-cost long-haul airline Norwegian, began its takeoff roll from the displaced landing threshold of runway 26R at London's Gatwick Airport on March 28th at 2201, however, that wasn't the start of the runway, which was some 417 metres behind them!

Photo Gatwick Airport
Gatwick's runway 26R is the emergency or standby runway, it is sometimes used when work is being carried out on the main landing strip, usually at night. It is also the one that Gatwick's owners want to use as a second runway for take off's in tandem with the main runway according to plans undergoing a consultation process at the moment, despite the narrow distance between the two. 

The start of the standby or emergency runway is marked by a white line, but the part of the runway before the landing threshold does not include white edge lights or centreline lights as runways do have. This configuration complies with relevant current specifications. To get to the start of the runway aircraft follow a route on a taxiway that is on the same heading as the runway and no turn is required. This is most unusual, as the majority of airports have runway entry points that require a turn onto the runway centreline. 
Beginning and threshold of runway 26R      Photo AAIB

Norwegian 787 G-CKWC  Photo Norwegian
These factors, combined with the perceived lack of lighting on the pre-threshold part of the runway, meant the flight crew of the Norwegian Boeing 787 did not identify the start of the runway and instead taxied up to the lights of the landing threshold to begin their takeoff roll. 

Consequently, the aircraft took off with insufficient thrust to meet regulatory takeoff performance criteria for the actual length of runway available. Which, according to the Civil Aviation Authority's Air Accident Investigation Branch could have lead to a catastrophic runway overrun had the aircraft suffered an engine failure just before the takeoff point and the crew decided to abort the takeoff.  

The report concludes that a combination of an unusual straight-line runway entry, a perceived lack of lighting in the pre-threshold area and the bright threshold lights ahead contributed to the crew not identifying the beginning of the runway. From the point at which the aircraft began its takeoff roll, its performance did not meet regulatory requirements for both stopping and continuing should an engine have failed close to V1. The risks in both cases were significant to the aircraft and its occupants. The 787 aircraft G-CKWC was carrying 260 passengers and 10 crew at the time of this incident, departing for  Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

It isn't the first time a flight crew hasn't noticed the start of the standby/emergency runway and started taking off from further down the tarmac. Reports indicated there had been at least four incidents, involving multiple operators between September 2017 and 28th March 2018 (the date of this incident). 

A review was undertaken of the markings on the standby/emergency runway before the displaced landing threshold on both 08L and 26R which revealed that they were not EASA compliant. A safety notice has been issued, pictured above, regarding departures from runway 26R. Gatwick have also painted three extra arrows after the beginning of the runway 26R before the displaced threshold, to hopefully make it a little clearer to pilots.