20210603 dubai airports
Both pilots were suspended pending the investigation. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: The UAE’s aviation regulator on Tuesday said a 2018 incident involving an Air Arabia plane was due to the co-pilot steering the aircraft onto the wrong runway during a rolling takeoff.

On September 18, 2018, Air Arabia Airbus A320 Aircraft, registration A6-ANV, was scheduled to operate commercial flight ABY111 from Sharjah International Airport to Salalah airport, Oman.

The plane was supposed to depart from runway 30 at the intersection with taxiway B14. This intersection, located about 3,350 feet from the end of the runway, meant the plane would still have about 10,000 feet to take-off. Instead, the aircraft took off in the opposite direction, where it only had about 3,350 feet of runway left.

A day after the incident, Air Arabia instructed their pilots that all intersection departures were banned with immediate effect. Both pilots were suspended pending the investigation.

“The Air Accident Investigation Sector of United Arab Emirates (AAIS) determines that the cause of the runway confusion was the copilot steering the aircraft right onto the wrong runway during a rolling takeoff,” said the General Civil Aviation (GCAA) in its final report on Tuesday.

“Entry to the wrong runway was due to degraded situation awareness of the aircraft direction by both flight crewmembers due to lack of external peripheral visual watch and runway confirmation,” said the regulator.

The air traffic controller not monitoring the aircraft after it received the takeoff clearance was a contributing factor, said GCAA.

The regulator also confirmed that at the time of the incident, the aircraft was “certified, equipped, and maintained in accordance with the existing requirements of the Civil Aviation Regulations of the United Arab Emirates”.

What is an intersection take-off?

In an intersection take-off, an aircraft starts at some point other than the end of the runway, at an intersection of the runway with a taxiway or another runway. Intersection take-offs can save time for aircraft that are able to carry them out.

Some aviation industry insiders have also called the practice problematic as it has been connected to several accidents in the past. By reducing the amount of runway used during takeoff, pilots have less runway available to them in the event of a malfunction to abort the takeoff or to perform an emergency landing.