On 30 January 2012, an A330-200 (A6-EYE) being operated by Etihad Airways on a scheduled passenger service from Abu Dhabi to Dublin lined up on the edge lights of departure runway 31L instead of the runway centre line in low night visibility and began a take off. After early recognition of the error, take off was rejected and the aircraft stopped after just under 800 metres of ground run. The aircraft was subsequently towed back to the terminal because of annunciation of nose gear tyre deflation and upon arrival there, the 229 uninjured occupants disembarked.
An Investigation is being undertaken by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Sector of the UAE GCAA. Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) data was successfully downloaded and used to assist the Investigation.
It was found that the only aircraft damage was to tyres, with both nose wheels and seven main wheels requiring replacement. Eleven runway edge lights were damaged and had to be replaced.
It was noted that fog had initially delayed the departure of the flight and that Low Visibility Procedures (LVP) remained in place when the flight did taxi out with the recorded IRVR shortly after the incident logged as 200 metres with no trend to greater or less than this figure recorded.
The entry to the runway was reportedly achieved by following the yellow marked centre line leading, by means of a left turn, to the lit runway 31L centreline. It was noted that this approximately 220 metre-long line is normally illuminated by a sequence of 30 green lights but that the flight crew involved in the event had subsequently stated that “shortly after passing the stop bar they could not see the green leading taxi centreline lights located on the yellow line”. In reality, the left turn had led to the alignment of the aircraft with the runway edge lighting. As the take off commenced, the aircraft nose landing gear had continued to track over these lights, passing over and destroying 11 of them while the left main landing gear was approximately 4.9 meters to the left of the runway edge and the right main landing gear within the runway but near to the left hand edge.
Aircraft Line-up Position (Source: Official Report)
The flight crew stated that the travel over the lights during the takeoff roll had been “unfamiliar” and that “the intensity of the ‘thumps’ (was) more intense”. Due to this the take off had been rejected. FDR data showed that the maximum indicated airspeed had reached 83 knots and it was calculated that the aircraft travelled approximately 775 metres before stopping just before the intersection with taxiway E14. After approximately 2 minutes, the aircraft had been taxied back onto the runway centreline with the intention of then vacating the runway but when an Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor (ECAM) alert indicated that the left hand nose wheel had lost pressure (it had been punctured by the impact with the runway edge lights) the aircraft was stopped again and a tow in to the terminal was arranged.
The Investigation considered the investigated circumstances of a number of other night misaligned take offs including one investigated by the GCAA, a Gama Bombardier CRJ200 attempting departure from Dubai on 9 May 2011, see:
and another involving an Air Canada Airbus A319 departing Las Vegas on 30 January 2006, see:
It was also noted that in 2009, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) had been sufficiently concerned at three successive similar Australian events involving small turboprops to undertake a review titled Factors influencing misaligned take-off occurrences at night of the circumstances of those and known similar events elsewhere. However, although the current Investigation did not make any comment in this respect, whilst all five of the investigated events examined in this review were night take offs, none were made in low visibility or by wide body aircraft types and only one, the Air Canada event referred to above, was a jet transport.
The Preliminary Report AAI Case Reference: 02/2012 was published on 30 January 2012. A Final Report has not yet (August 2015) been published.
A further example of an unintended night departure aligned on the runway edge lights, although also in good visibility, occurred at Dresden in 2002, see: