Oops: Turkish Airlines A330 Tries To Take Off From Newark Taxiway

Oops: Turkish Airlines A330 Tries To Take Off From Newark Taxiway

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Well this is embarrassing and concerning, but at least the situation ended well…

Turkish Airlines’ attempted taxiway takeoff

The Aviation Herald has the story of how a Turkish Airlines plane attempted to take off from a taxiway at Newark Airport — fortunately air traffic controllers noticed, and the takeoff could be rejected before anything happened.

This incident took place on Turkish Airlines flight TK30 from Newark (EWR) to Istanbul (IST), scheduled to depart late at night on August 6, 2021 (it ended up taking off shortly after midnight on August 7). The flight was operated by a roughly 10 year old Airbus A330-300 with the registration code TC-JNI.

The pilots were cleared for takeoff on runway 22R, but they accidentally instead taxied onto taxiway P, which is parallel to the runway, and attempted to take off there. The pilots accelerated the aircraft, until air traffic controllers noticed what was going on, and canceled takeoff clearance.

The plane went all the way up to 90 knots (~104 miles per hour) before the mistake was caught. The plane covered nearly a mile of the taxiway before it got down to a standard taxiing speed.

At that point the plane taxied to a holding pen, so that the brakes could cool down for about 45 minutes, since such a high speed rejected takeoff caused the breaks to overheat. Emergency vehicles stayed near the parked plane the entire time. The A330 finally (correctly) took off from runway 22R about an hour later, and it landed in Istanbul about 1hr40min behind schedule.

Passengers onboard suggest that the pilot stated the takeoff was rejected due to a mechanical problem. Fair enough, I suppose — I suspect passengers being told the real reason for the aborted takeoff wouldn’t exactly be reassuring, and may have resulted in some passengers wanting to deplane.

You can listen to the air traffic control audio and see a visualization of the situation here:

This is rare, but not unheard of

Ultimately commercial aviation is incredibly safe — however, for every actual disaster we hear of, there are a countless number of bad situations that are narrowly avoided, and this would be one of them.

It’s a major screw-up for pilots to take off from a taxiway rather than a runway:

  • There could be other planes on a taxiway, and that could lead to a catastrophe
  • Runway lights and taxiway lights are different colors and intensity, so this really shouldn’t be an easy mistake to make

While a commercial aircraft trying to take off or land on a taxiway is rare (like, it’s not a daily or even weekly occurrence), incidents like these do happen every so often. In 2017, an Air Canada A320 nearly landed on a taxiway at SFO, rather than a runway. The plane was within 50 feet of touching down there, and there were four planes on the taxiway, including two 787s, an A340, and a 737. Talk about a narrowly avoided catastrophe.

Bottom line

A Turkish Airlines Airbus A330 flying from Newark to Istanbul nearly took off from a taxiway that was parallel to the runway. Air traffic controllers caught the mistake as the plane was at over 100mph, at which point the takeoff was rejected. The plane’s brakes had to cool down for about 45 minutes, and after that the plane (successfully) took off from the runway.

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  1. Frequent flyer

    What an unprofessional airport personnel! Let go so far the situation before even noticing it! Embrassing!

  2. Antony VS

    Should have different colour lights for runaway and taxiway so there won't be confusion. The occurance of such situation is very rare but the result can be catastrophic if it happens.

  3. FlyerDon

    If they really were going 90kts or faster it disturbs me that initially they were going to depart again without checking their tires or brakes. I would have gone back to the gate and had the brakes and tires inspected for damage by a mechanic and a crew member. Then I would have had a serious conversation with the other crew members about what broke down in cockpit discipline that allowed this to happen and...

    If they really were going 90kts or faster it disturbs me that initially they were going to depart again without checking their tires or brakes. I would have gone back to the gate and had the brakes and tires inspected for damage by a mechanic and a crew member. Then I would have had a serious conversation with the other crew members about what broke down in cockpit discipline that allowed this to happen and determine, as a crew, if they could safely operate this flight tonight.

  4. Patti Stoney

    If I would have been on that flight, you can sure bet I would have demanded to get off that plane. And not in a disruptive and aggressive type of way. I would be having a panic attack at the thought of flying that distance with those pilots. Maybe they should have delayed it longer and brought in a new crew. But God forbid you delay the flight so as to mess up their on...

    If I would have been on that flight, you can sure bet I would have demanded to get off that plane. And not in a disruptive and aggressive type of way. I would be having a panic attack at the thought of flying that distance with those pilots. Maybe they should have delayed it longer and brought in a new crew. But God forbid you delay the flight so as to mess up their on time ratings. And I know English is the universal language for pilots and controllers, so I have to wonder if that played a role too. My ex-husband and my niece recently retired from being an ATC. So I've heard more than enough about how difficult it can be sometimes to understand pilots from another country because their grasp of the English language isn't quite as good as I would think they should be required to be. And if you think I'm being politically incorrect, your wrong. Of course everyone is going to speak their own language. I just think simple mistakes could be avoided if they made the requirement of speaking English a bit more difficult.
    Of course, in this instance I don't know if it was a factor. Just curious what else could have caused the flight crew to make such a monumental mistake.

  5. ROGER NORWICH

    Unbelievable that the two pilots were not immediately suspended. Not a good advert for Turkish Airlines nor their safety culture. I will be avoiding as if I remember correctly their Amsterdam crash was due to pilot error. When airlines grow at the pace Turkish has done in recent years I worry about safety as it is incredibly difficult to train and manage people effectively when growing so fast.

  6. Creditian

    They got better luck than SQ-006

  7. roger767

    This has happened many times and is called loss of situational awareness. What is surprising is that the air traffic controller with today's high resolution ground control radars has not caught the mistake before starting the take off run. It is his responsibility to monitor compliance of his clearances as well. Flight safety is a team effort. When a holes on slices of swiss cheese coincide , that is when the accidents happen.

    1. Reba S

      David, they’d yell at you to shut up and get back in your seat! Lol

    2. Reba S

      My thoughts exactly!! See my previous post

  8. Adam Simmons

    Aren't runway lights always yellow? I'd surely not be the only passenger to spot that the "runway" lights were the wrong colour?

    1. vbscript2

      They're white until the last 2,000 feet, where they're amber/yellow. And, yeah, I'd definitely have noticed if I were in a window seat on that flight, but then most passengers don't know the difference and probably wouldn't be paying attention even if they did. Not a lot you could do about it as a passenger anyway, though. One could scream, "Abort! Abort! Abort! We're on a taxiway!," but the pilots wouldn't be able to hear...

      They're white until the last 2,000 feet, where they're amber/yellow. And, yeah, I'd definitely have noticed if I were in a window seat on that flight, but then most passengers don't know the difference and probably wouldn't be paying attention even if they did. Not a lot you could do about it as a passenger anyway, though. One could scream, "Abort! Abort! Abort! We're on a taxiway!," but the pilots wouldn't be able to hear that from the flight deck unless maybe you're seated in the first row (and, even then, perhaps not.) By the time the flight attendants could call them (if they even answered during a takeoff roll,) it would have been after ATC noticed and instructed them to stop anyway.

    2. David

      Although anyone who noticed would know the flight wasn't aborted because of "mechanical issue". I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, and what would the crew do if I requested to de-board because I don't feel safe.

    3. Reba S

      Yeah, speaking of ATC , where were they? Don’t they monitor planes traveling down taxiways versus runways? Aren’t they in constant contact with pilots prior to takeoff? We’re they sleep deprived, distracted etc? Just saying….

  9. JG

    I'm surprised they let these guys proceed to take off 45 minutes later? Isn't this a rather signifiant incident that reflects extremely poor situational awareness, judgement, etc? Wouldn't a new crew be in order here while the situation is investigated?

    1. Eskimo

      Umm, investigate what?
      We already know what happened.
      Safety and redundancy which are there to prevent such event are working as expected.
      This is writing a report stuff. Now if it went beyond V1, that will be more interesting.

      Human makes mistakes all the time. You don't call CSI every time someone spills coffee right, especially with redundancies like the coffee lid still on?

      Now if it went

    2. vbscript2

      While I'd agree that cancelling the flight would have been excessive (it's not like Turkish is going to have a spare crew lying around at every station, so cancelling would be the only option if crew couldn't go,) an investigation - which should indeed result in a report - is appropriate. I'm assuming that one will be conducted, just as it was when CDG Tower accidentally instructed United to change runways on short final last...

      While I'd agree that cancelling the flight would have been excessive (it's not like Turkish is going to have a spare crew lying around at every station, so cancelling would be the only option if crew couldn't go,) an investigation - which should indeed result in a report - is appropriate. I'm assuming that one will be conducted, just as it was when CDG Tower accidentally instructed United to change runways on short final last summer. Whether everything works out in the end or not, investigations into all of the contributing factors when something like this happens are how the aviation community as a whole becomes continually more safe. We learn from mistakes - regardless of who made them or if someone else caught them - so that they aren't repeated in the future. The point is not to have a blame game, but to learn from the incident and see if there are things that can be improved by any party involved to prevent similar mistakes in the future. I would hope that this would happen from an incident of this magnitude.

    3. PeterK

      You can be certain the NTSB will investigate. This is a big deal with potentially catastrophic consequences (see Comair 5191 or various other takeoff accidents). As soon as the throttles were advanced for takeoff on a taxiway this became a serious incident. The fact that some layers of the system caught the error this time doesn't mean there isn't room to improve the layers that failed. Understanding how the flight crew missed signage and lighting...

      You can be certain the NTSB will investigate. This is a big deal with potentially catastrophic consequences (see Comair 5191 or various other takeoff accidents). As soon as the throttles were advanced for takeoff on a taxiway this became a serious incident. The fact that some layers of the system caught the error this time doesn't mean there isn't room to improve the layers that failed. Understanding how the flight crew missed signage and lighting cues (and possibly moving map indications) can help improve those systems in such a way that fallible humans can catch a mistake much earlier than this.

      Avionics manufacturers have actually developed takeoff runway alignment checks in their systems to prevent a repeat of Comair 5191, but it's quite possible they're probably not set up to trigger on parallel taxiways and this is a recent innovation, so quite possibly not available on the incident aircraft.

    4. Bob

      Disagree. Investigation should absolutely be done to figure out how the mistake was made and how long it took to recognize a problem so that you can avoid it in the future or add automation to warn atc.

    5. Antarius

      Investigate exactly how the TK pilots mistook taxiway P for a runway. Is it pilot fatigue? Bad signage? Sign lighting malfunction? Badly trained pilot? Bad CRM?

      We know WHAT happened. We do not know why. That is why the NTSB will investigate.

    6. RF

      Have everyone wait around while they fly in a new crew from IST?

  10. John

    I don’t trust Turkish Airlines, too many safety related incidents. Shame, because it looks like the service is decent and the hard product has improved significantly.

  11. D3kingg

    Passengers would panic after a wide body rejected takeoff as smoke fills the cabin with burning rubber from the tires.
    Pilot fatigue. Crew rest should be at least 24 hours and at a full service hotel. Not a courtyard by Marriott. .

    1. Eskimo

      You probably never been on a rejected takeoff.

    2. Bob

      Nah. I've been on planes with rejected takeoffs. I'm often amazed how many passengers around don't even notice it. They don't even pause their conversation.

  12. ginger_pickle

    I would say the passengers have a right to know and deplane based on their judgment.

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PeterK

You can be certain the NTSB will investigate. This is a big deal with potentially catastrophic consequences (see Comair 5191 or various other takeoff accidents). As soon as the throttles were advanced for takeoff on a taxiway this became a serious incident. The fact that some layers of the system caught the error this time doesn't mean there isn't room to improve the layers that failed. Understanding how the flight crew missed signage and lighting cues (and possibly moving map indications) can help improve those systems in such a way that fallible humans can catch a mistake much earlier than this. Avionics manufacturers have actually developed takeoff runway alignment checks in their systems to prevent a repeat of Comair 5191, but it's quite possible they're probably not set up to trigger on parallel taxiways and this is a recent innovation, so quite possibly not available on the incident aircraft.

Eskimo

You probably never been on a rejected takeoff.

JG

I'm surprised they let these guys proceed to take off 45 minutes later? Isn't this a rather signifiant incident that reflects extremely poor situational awareness, judgement, etc? Wouldn't a new crew be in order here while the situation is investigated?

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