Air France A320 tried to take off from Lisbon taxiway

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Details have emerged of an incident at Lisbon International Airport earlier this month in which an air traffic controller ordered an Air France Airbus A320 to abort its take-off roll at high speed after realising that it was departing on a taxiway.

The Airbus A320, operating flight AF1205, was bound for Paris Charles de Gaulle with 65 passengers on board and had been given departure clearance from Lisbon’s runway 03.

Runway 03, the main strip at the airport, converges and intersects with the shorter secondary runway 35. Running parallel to 03 along its entire length - and also intersecting the shorter runway - is the main taxiway U1. Lisbon’s terminal buildings lie to the east of the runway complex.

Visibility was good and the runway was dry at the time, shortly before 11:15. Instead of turning onto the runway, however, the aircraft, registered F-GFKU, lined up on the U1 taxiway and commenced its take-off run.

An air traffic controller realised what was happening and alerted the aircraft’s crew which aborted the take-off after travelling some 800m (2,600ft) along the taxiway.

Portugal’s GPIA investigation authority is probing the incident. A spokeswoman for Air France, while not prepared to comment on progress with the investigation, says that indications were that there was “construction work” on the short taxiway N, one of two which connects the far southern end of the U1 taxiway to runway 03.

An internal Air France document reporting the 7 February incident also refers to “work and red barriers” present on taxiway N - although it does not comment further on the significance of this observation.

Following the aborted take-off the aircraft’s brakes were cooled and the crew prepared the twin-jet for take-off a second time, eventually departing normally. The incident came just a few days after a China Airlines Airbus A340 took off on a taxiway at Anchorage International Airport, Alaska; US authorities are still studying the cause of that incident.