On July 20, 2020, an air traffic controller slipped and told two aircraft, one preparing to land and the other preparing to take off … to use the same runway.
This is a mistake that could have had serious consequences. On July 20, 2020, two planes narrowly missed colliding on one of the runways at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.
This is explained by a report from the Bureau of Investigation and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), published Monday and spotted by BFMTV. He comes back on “This serious incident” which involved a United Airlines Boeing 787 and an Easyjet Airbus A320. In question, the airport controller who “Made a slip”.
On July 20, the crew of the Boeing 787 coming from Newark airport in the United States obtained clearance to land on runway 09R (right) when it should normally land on runway 09L (left) . The commander listens to the tower and performs a maneuver to land on the runway indicated by the controller. Except that at the same time, the controller gave the authorization to the Airbus A320 to line up on the same runway 09R to prepare for takeoff.
And, while the Airbus has “Started taxiing for alignment” and that he carried out a final check on runway 09R, the captain saw the Boeing approaching him “At a height of 300 ft (300 feet, or approximately 92 meters) and 1300 m from the threshold”, specifies the BEA report. “Faced with the imminence of a potential collision, the crew of the Airbus A320 asked the aircraft on final to go around”, and, for his part, the captain braked “While he was already on the track of ten meters”.
At the same time, the Boeing 787 receives an identical order from the controller. The Boeing 787 narrowly flies over the other plane and after a loop it will land on runway 09L.
“His tongue forked”
In its report, the BEA gives some possible explanations, including a position within the north tower of the controller which did not allow her to have a “Direct visual contact on the thresholds of runways 09” and “A screen used for in-position control” which appeared to be out of order and could not be turned on. Cited in the report, “She thinks ‘her tongue forked’ because she was focused on runway 09R” where an Air France Boeing 787 had just landed, which two planes had to cross and from which two other planes had to take off. She adds “That it regularly happens to the controllers to slip up”. The report also states that “According to her, the first contributing factor to this event is the lack of practice caused by the health situation linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a reduction in the automatisms necessary for her work”.
Following this event, Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport established a “New operational instruction” “specifying the roles and responsibilities of the controller”. For its part, Eurocontrol suggests that in this type of situation where a doubt remains, “The crew asks the controller to reconfirm the clearance, rather than repeating what they think they have heard”.