Rules Of The Road At The Airport

Monday, August 28th 2006, 10:28 am
By: News On 6

So how could an airplane pilot take off from the wrong runway? It could be a simple as mixing up the numbers - but mistakes are usually caught.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says there are rules of the road that come into play at airports, just as they do on regular streets. The News on 6 went up Monday at Jones Riverside airport to get a pilot's view.

Before every flight a good pilot checks out the aircraft. And once they're ready to fly - it's just as important to get good directions - on how to get to the right runway for takeoff. It's a little different for helicopters, since they don't require runways, but just as important for Sky News 6 pilot Joe Lester to know how to get around an airport. "And there should be someone watching you, because they need to keep planes on the surface apart, so somebody needs to be watching you."

That's the job of the ground controllers in the tower - to make sure pilots use the right taxiways and runways. The signs are clear - runways are marked in red with the numbers - and these yellow stripes are airport stop signs - to make sure airplanes don't cross an active runway without permission.

When an aircraft approaches and turns onto the runway - the number is there again - but checking that against a map is the only way to know the length of the runway. A pilot, especially at night, like the one in Kentucky, would not be able to see the other end - until it was too late. "At what point did he realize he was on the wrong runway, I don't know."

The tower tells the pilot where to go and it's the pilot's job to follow directions. The tower would normally catch a pilot’s mistake - and they frequently do - but in Kentucky, somehow the mistake was made - both in the cockpit and in the tower. "Guys just not paying attention, basically, well it would have to be a couple of guys not paying attention I would think.”