Swift AT72 at Cologne on Apr 27th 2020, rejected takeoff due to being aligned with runway edge lights

Last Update: January 22, 2021 / 14:35:36 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Apr 27, 2020

Classification
Incident

Airline
Swiftair

Flight number
WT-6992

Destination
Sofia, Bulgaria

Aircraft Registration
EC-INV

Aircraft Type
ATR ATR-72-200

ICAO Type Designator
AT72

A Swift Air Avions de Transport Regional ATR-72-200, registration EC-INV performing flight WT-6992 from Cologne (Germany) to Sofia (Bulgaria), was accelerating for takeoff from Cologne when the crew rejected takeoff due to hitting several runway edge lights.

Germany's BFU reported the crew did not realize they had lined up with the runway edge instead of the runway center line lights and hit several edge lights before rejecting takeoff. The aircraft sustained minor damage. The occurrence was rated a serious incident and is being investigated by the BFU.

On Jun 8th 2020 the BFU reported in their April bulletin that the aircraft had taxied to runway 06 via taxiway T. At the hold short line they were cleared to enter and backtrack runway 06. The aircraft taxied onto the runway and taxied along the runway centerline towards the turn pad. The captain (56, ATPL, 9,394 hours total, 8,347 hours on type) was steering the aircraft with his left hand and the steering tiller, the before takeoff checklist was read while taxiing towards the turn pad (abeam taxiway B). The aircraft entered the turn pad and then made a left turn to line up runway 06. During the turn there was some noise in the cockpit, the crew tried to identified the noise initially believing a cockpit door had jumped open but then discovered that a bag of the captain had fallen down behind the seat. The captain finished the turn and aligned the aircraft with the white lights in front of him, both pilots, the first officer (52, ATPL, 5,365 hours total, 4,543 hours on type) being pilot monitoring, were sure they had lined up on the center line of the runway. After receiving the takeoff clearance the captain began acceleration of the aircraft for departure. After a short distance the aircraft unexpectedly experienced a number of jolts, the crew also saw something fly away. The crew rejected takeoff. After a brief discussion the crew vacated the runway via taxiway T and returned to the apron still unable to explain the jolts and noises. A subsequent runway inspection revealed 9 left edge lights had been destroyed, one taxiway light had been damaged, too. The aircraft received damage to the nose wheel, bottom of the fuselage near the main wheels and some propeller blades.

The BFU reported taxiway B was closed due to work in progress.

Similiar occurrences had happened in the past. As result the British AAIB had released a safety recommendation to the ICAO: "It is recommended that the International Civil Aviation Organisation initiate the process to develop within Annex 14 Volume 1, ‘Aerodrome Design and Operations’, a standard for runway edge lights that would allow pilots to identify them specifically, without reference to other lights or other airfield features."

On Jan 22nd 2021 the BFU released their final report concluding the probable cause of the serious incident was:

The Serious Incident occurred because the crew confused the left runway edge marking and lighting of runway 06 of Cologne/Bonn Airport with the centre line and therefore had aligned the airplane unnoticed with the wrong runway lighting for takeoff.

Contributing factors:

- Low attention level of the crew
- Distraction in the cockpit during the turn on the turnpad.
- The width and marking in the area of turnpad and the beginning of runway 06.
- From the cockpit it was difficult to differentiate between runway edge lighting and centre line lighting.

The BFU analysed:

The night of the event had been the first flight duty for the crew after a more than 36-hour rest period. From the CVR recording indications for fatigue could not be deduced.

The pilots communicated friendly in German with each other. Both pilots had known each other for years and in the cockpit were equal to one another. They had a high type experience as well as in their respective roles as Pilot Flying (PF) and Pilot Monitoring (PM). The atmosphere in the cockpit was relaxed. The recordings showed that during engine start-up, taxiing, and take-off preparations the checklist procedures were applied. The respective checks in the Challenge and Response procedure between PF and PM were conducted efficient, confident and situation-based.

Both had taken off from runway 06 of Cologne/Bonn Airport numerous times. They were familiar with the backtrack procedure and turn on the turnpad. The planned flight had been routine for both pilots and did not constitute unusual stress.

It is reasonable to assume that take-off was rejected on mutual agreement, even though it was neither discussed nor announced. Communication during standard and especially emergency procedures is however without doubt important and necessary in order to inform the entire crew and involve possible resources.

Meteorological Conditions

At the time of the occurrence it was dark. Ground visibility was more than 10 km. Meteorological limitations, except for the darkness, did not cause the event or posed a contributory factor.

On the contrary, the BFU is of the opinion that it is highly likely that the good visibility reduced the attention of the crew and tempted the pilots to not continuously concentrate on following the taxi guidance turnpad markings and question the position of the airplane.

Airport

Due to the construction, the usual taxiway Bravo to the beginning of runway 06 was closed. Therefore all airplanes had to taxi as so-called backtrack on runway 06, then turn on the turnpad at the beginning of runway 06 for take-off run. The tower controller could not discern whether the airplane was aligned with the runway centre line or not when he issued take-off clearance at night. Due to the simplified depiction of the radar targets, it is not clearly evident on the radar monitor either. The BFU is of the opinion that this constitutes limitation of air traffic control at many large airports which should not pose any safety problems as long as flight crews can clearly recognise and identify runway markings and lightings.

Due to the taxiway markings from runway to the turnpad, the white line of the runway edge marking on the turnpad was not a continuous line and therefore showed similarities with centre line markings (Fig. 7). The BFU noted that the alignment for the Misalignment Take-Off occurred along the intermittent runway edge marking and approximately in the centre of the total width of turnpad and runway 06. Therefore, a mix-up is understandable.

The reporting archive of the airport’s lighting system showed that prior to and during the event all lightings had been lit, and the pilots stated that everything had been illuminated as usual.

Due to the flat angle from the cockpit towards the respective lighting (runway edge and centre line) the different distances between the individual lamps of the corresponding chain of lights could barely or not at all be seen. This event shows, as other Misalignment Take-offs have, that in darkness with no reference points it is almost impossible to detect the difference between the runway edge and the centre line lighting.
Incident Facts

Date of incident
Apr 27, 2020

Classification
Incident

Airline
Swiftair

Flight number
WT-6992

Destination
Sofia, Bulgaria

Aircraft Registration
EC-INV

Aircraft Type
ATR ATR-72-200

ICAO Type Designator
AT72

This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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