New Zealand investigators say pilots failed to heed warning that usable length was shortened by repair work

An Emirates Boeing 777 nearly collided with a truck and other equipment at the end of the main runway at Auckland airport, New Zealand on take-off last month. The investigator says the pilots had failed to take note of information that the published usable length had been reduced because the far end of the runway was under maintenance.

New Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has disclosed that it is investigating the incident, which occurred at about 16:15 on 22 March.

The TAIC says: "The 777was taking off from the main runway, which had been shortened due to repair works under way at one end," but evidently the crew were not aware of this. "[The pilots] had to increase power to maximum thrust during the take-off when they noticed the machinery working at the end of the runway," says the TAIC.

Maintenance mishaps from the past

On 16 July 2003 a UK-based Excel Airlines Boeing 737-800 with 197 people on board took off over the top of heavy vehicles carrying out scheduled end of runway maintenance at Manchester airport. The crew began the take-off with de-rated power assuming the full length would be available, but lifted off safely by slamming on full power as they topped the mid-runway rise and saw the vehicles. In October 2000 a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 collided disastrously with construction equipment in poor visibility, while attempting take-off from a runway that was closed for maintenance at Taipei, Taiwan, resulting in 83 deaths. 

It adds that "the aircraft cleared the work area by the permitted margin [and] nobody was injured".

Equipment in the work area included a truck and a car, TAIC air accident investigator Peter Williams told Flight's online news service Air Transport Intelligence.

Williams says that for normal full-length operations on the runway in use, 05R, the declared accelerate-stop distance available is 3,623m (11,900ft), but the distance "from taxiway A10 at the time of the incident was 2,170m".

He adds that the runway work at the airport was scheduled to take place between 19 March and 8 April and information about it was included "in the [airport's broadcast] automatic terminal information service, NOTAMs [notices to airmen] and the operator's briefing package".

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Source: Flight International