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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

INCIDENT: ATC Error Caused A Serious Runway Incursion

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An air traffic controller made the error of permitting one plane to join the runway while another was heading for a landing at a US airport, resulting in a runway incursion.

Any occurrence at an airport involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle, or person in the protected area of a surface designed for aircraft landing and take-off is known as a runway incursion.

The incident occurred on June 10 and included an Embraer 175 ready to take off and a Boeing 737 arriving to land at San Diego International Airport, according to information provided by the United States Accident and Incident Investigation Agency (NTSB – National Transportation Safety Board).

Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737-800 (reg. N8674B) had flown #WN1648 out of Phoenix, Arizona, and was on final approach to San Diego runway 27 when the tower’s air traffic controller gave the pilots permission to land.

Meanwhile, an Embraer ERJ-175 (reg. N197SY) operated by regional SkyWest on behalf of Alaska Airlines was taxiing to take off on the same runway 27 as flight #AS3371 to San Francisco, California.

The controller told the Embraer pilots to line up the plane on runway 27 and wait for takeoff authorization shortly after the Boeing 737 was cleared to land.

Embraer took off from runway 27 and cleared the runway a few meters ahead via taxiway C2 on the right, returning to the taxiway C1 waiting area.

It was unclear if the runway was cleared as a result of new controller guidance or as a result of the pilots’ own actions when they observed another plane arriving as they approached the runway.

The Boeing 737 pilots completed their final approach to a safe landing, and the Embraer took off around 8 minutes later.

The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the incident to figure out what happened and what variables contributed to the controller’s deception.

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