Disoriented contractor prompts A300F takeoff abort in Heathrow

© CopyrightLewis Clarke, licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

A driver, who became disoriented, accidentally entered a runway in London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), prompting the air traffic control to abruptly cancel takeoff clearance for EAT Leipzig A300 freighter. British aviation authority has now released a report into a runway incursion incident in February 2019.

The incident occurred during temporary overnight works on several LHR’s taxiways back in February 2019, according to the report by the UK Civil Aviation Authority Air Accidents Investigation Branch, issued on December 13, 2019. The taxiways in question are located close to the runway, including one of its entry points. 

Two contractors were operating their company vehicle. They both held permits to drive on airside roadways and aprons. However, they were not permitted to drive on the runway or taxiways; for the latter task, contractors had to rely on the airport’s operations staff member to accompany them. 

However, after a miscommunication and a “difference in expectations” on how to perform the task at hand, contractors “became disorientated and drove onto the active runway”, the report indicates. It also outlines that the disorientation was likely caused by the lack of Bolton barriers delineating the entrance to the runway which contractors expected to see. 

At the same time, an A300-600 freighter aircraft was lining up for takeoff ‒ for which it already had a clearance by ATC. When the airport operations staff member noticed contractors on the runway, he contacted the controllers who, in turn, canceled the takeoff clearance before the aircraft had started its takeoff roll. 

Following the incident, the airport has now made a runway safety guide to help drivers recognize runway entry points and their markings (illuminated red stop bars, runway guard amber lights, signs and ground markings).

Also recognizing that Bolton barriers across runway access points can help to avoid vehicles entering by accident, LHR has revised its airside local operating procedures which now requires it. 

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