A runway incursion incident was recorded at a US airport after the air traffic controller made the mistake of allowing one plane to enter the runway while another was approaching for a landing.
Runway Incursion is defined as any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person in the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft.
According to information presented by the United States Accident and Incident Investigation Agency (NTSB – National Transportation Safety Board), the occurrence took place on June 10 and involved an Embraer 175 about to take off and a Boeing 737 arriving to land at the Airport of San Diego, California.
Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737-800 (reg. N8674B) had departed Phoenix, Arizona, flying #WN1648, and was on final approach to San Diego runway 27 when the air traffic controller of the tower authorized the landing to the pilots.
Meanwhile, the Embraer ERJ-175 (reg. N197SY), operated by regional SkyWest on behalf of Alaska Airlines and initiating flight #AS3371 to San Francisco, California, was taxiing to take off from the same runway 27.
Shortly after the Boeing 737 was cleared to land, the controller instructed the Embraer pilots to line up the aircraft on runway 27 and await takeoff authorization.
Embraer lined up on runway 27 and, shortly thereafter, cleared the runway a few meters ahead via taxiway C2 on the right, returning to the waiting point for taxiway C1. It was not specified whether the clearance of the runway occurred by new guidance from the controller or by the action of the pilots themselves when they noticed that another aircraft was approaching when they entered the runway.
The Boeing 737 pilots continued the final approach to a safe landing and the Embraer departed about 8 minutes later.
The NTSB is investigating the incident to define the likely causes and contributing factors that led to the controller’s deception.