Heads Up on the Runway

While landing in Luxembourg in low visibility due to fog, a Cargolux 747's tires went through the roof of a maintenance truck whose crew was working on the runway ground lighting. The van's driver was not hurt; the van was damaged by being landed on by the 747 (no doubt!), and the Boeing's tires were damaged after going through the van's roof. No one, however, was hurt, although the maintenance person was hospitalized for shock.

I would be shocked too, if a Boeing landed on my roof while I was working. If it were I who'd been landed on, I'd have to change my name to Chicken Little, because I'd never again trust that the sky wasn't falling. (I hope this guy is well insured, because even if he's physically ok, he's going to need therapy.)

On the other hand, that is why I don't work on a runway. (And if I did, it would be in Thousand Oaks, California, not Luxembourg.)

One does wonder if the maintenance vehicle was cleared, or precisely who was supposed to be where at that exact moment. Perhaps the maintenance was going on specifically because of the foggy conditions. It does sound like someone was not exactly in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps, someone in HR did not like the maintenance guy very much, and their brother-in-law was in line for that position if it opens up.

Luxembourg is investigating to see what what wrong, and how and why. (Luxembourg is 998.6 sq mi in area. Rhode Island is 1,545 square miles. I know size doesn't matter, but Luxembourg is still smaller than our smallest state. Bigger than DC though.)

The Administration of Technical Investigations is determining the cause of the accident in order to recommendation measures to avoid a reoccurrence. (See 4 rules below.)

The Directorate of Civil Aviation will conduct an investigation regarding compliance with established procedure. (If the procedure is not to stay out of the path of incoming planes, I recommend changing established procedure.)

The Administration of Air Navigation is doing an internal administrative investigation. I.E. Where will the hammer fall.

Hello. To avoid a plane landing on somebody, follow these simple rules:

  • Rule Number One. Stay off the runway.
  • Rule Number Two. If you're landing a plane, and they tell you to land on a runway, make sure there's no one on it so you don't land on them.
  • Rule Number Three. If you're not landing a plane, don't go on the runway unless you work there. Even if you work at the airport, and they tell you to fix the runway lights, make sure no one is going to use that runway while you're fixing the lights.
  • Rule Number Four. If the visibility is low and you can't tell if the runway is clear, and you're supposed to land on the runway but you can't see it, tell ATC that if it is humanly possible, they have to find you someplace to land where there's enough visibility to see to land.
  • Rule Number Four-C. (otherwise known as the Life is Not a Cartoon rule). If something is directly behind you, get out of the way. This means moving left or right, out of the path of the incoming vehicle, not moving forward. If something motorized is directly behind you running directly in front of it WILL NOT HELP. ( Even the roadrunner and Wiley Coyote knew this.)

Not that aviation is actually that simplistic. It will be months before a legitimate opinion clears the committees. And of course, it is a good day when everyone gets out alive.

Posted originally by George Hatcher Thursday, January 21, 2010