G-XLAG, a Boeing 737-86N, with seven crew and 190 passengers on board, was undertaking a flight from Manchester Airport to Kos, Greece. Runway 06L was in use but the flight crew were not aware that this runway was being operated at reduced length. This was due to work-in-progress to remove rubber deposits at the far end of the runway, which was out of sight from the 06L threshold end as the runway was built over a slight rise in the ground. Due to a difference in interpretation of information passed between Air Traffic Control (ATC) and the flight crew, the aircraft entered the runway from holding point AG, rather than the expected holding point A, and the takeoff was conducted using a reduced thrust setting calculated for the assumed normal runway length. As the aircraft passed the crest of the runway, the flight crew became aware of vehicles at its far end but, as they were now close to their rotation speed, they continued and carried out a normal takeoff. The aircraft passed within 56 ft of a 14 ft high vehicle.
This serious incident was notified to the AAIB at 1724 hrs on 23 July 2003, seven days after it had occurred. The subsequent investigation revealed further incidents had occurred during the course of the work, the most significant being on the night of 15 July 2003. On this occasion ATC had instructed three commercial passenger aircraft to go-around after they had knowingly positioned them to land on the reduced length runway. The crews of all three aircraft were unaware of the reduced length available and, when informed, stated that it was insufficient for them to be able to land. The closest of the aircraft, a Tristar, was at a range of 2.5 nm when instructed to go-around.
The actions of Manchester Airport plc (MA plc) and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) Manchester, whilst not directly contributing to the event involving G-XLAG, raised additional concerns. In light of this, the scope of the investigation was extended to include the manner in which MA plc and NATS had planned and managed the rubber removal operation.
The operator, MA plc and NATS have now taken considerable steps to address most of the issues raised in this report.
Six safety recommendations are made.
The crew of G-XLAG did not realise that Runway 06L was operating at reduced length due to work-in-progress at its far end, until their aircraft had accelerated to a speed approaching the rotate speed (VR), despite:
Being in possession of a NOTAM concerning the work-in-progress
The ATIS broadcast relating to the work-in-progress
ATC passing information on the takeoff distance available
At this point, the aircraft was approaching seven vehicles on the runway and was at a position which precluded an abort within the useable runway length remaining.
Download full report:
3-2006 G-XLAG.pdf (2,239.63 kb)