Cause of jet's bungled takeoff still a mystery

It's still not clear why a Finnair flight almost took off from a taxiway instead of a runway at the city's airport.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 December, 2010, 12:00am

It's still not clear why a Finnair flight almost took off from a taxiway instead of a runway at the city's airport.

An inquiry found that the plane, carrying 272 people, had no problems with light signals or radio communication and the weather was fine.

The incident took place just before 1.30am on November 27, when the Helsinki-bound Airbus A340-300 made a wrong turn onto a taxiway.

Its crew was preparing to take off and the plane accelerating down the taxiway until an air traffic controller ordered a stop. It came to a halt 1.4 kilometres down the taxiway.

The Civil Aviation Department launched an investigation and yesterday released a three-page preliminary report.

But it warned the findings 'must be regarded as tentative' and were meant only for general information.

'The investigation team will continue to collect and study all relevant information in order to determine the circumstances and causes of the incident,' a spokesman said. 'More in-depth investigation and analysis work has to be done before any conclusions can be drawn.' Under the United Nation's Convention on International Civil Aviation, the incident was deemed 'serious' because it involved 'circumstances indicating that an accident nearly occurred'.

The preliminary report found the Finnair flight was cleared to take off from one of the airport's runways. Its crew took the correct route towards the runway but turned prematurely into the taxiway, which runs parallel to the runway.

Airport staff checked the runway and taxiway lights, including the 'stop bar' lights, and found that they were all in working order.

An airport authority spokeswoman said the inquiry was to determine the causes of the incident and not who or what was to blame. But human error is not being ruled out.

Two days after the incident, the authority introduced an extra safeguard to prevent a recurrence.

It stipulates that crews of all planes taking off from the runway in question must prove to air traffic control that their craft passed the taxiway where the incident occurred.

The investigation is scheduled to conclude in the next six months.