On 25 January 2002, in normal ground visibility at night, an Airbus A340-300 being operated by China Airlines and departing Anchorage, Alaska on a passenger flight to Taipei successfully took-off from a parallel taxiway, adjacent to the authorised departure runway, which was of less length than the calculated airplane take-off distance required. As a consequence of the taxiway departure the aircraft contacted a snow bank with the main landing gear at the end of the taxiway. However, the aircraft became airborne and then completed its flight without further incident.
The following is an extract from the official Report (ANC02IA0114) into the Serious Incident investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (USA) (NTSB):
"The airplane made a right turn from taxiway Romeo onto taxiway Kilo, a heading of 240 degrees, and came to a stop at the lighted hold line east of the runway 32 extension. The airplane was expected to have continued west on Kilo into the extended portion of runway 32, and then turned right (north) onto the approach end of runway 32, but the captain requested the "before takeoff checklist," and the first officer, the flying pilot, complied. Following his completion of the checklist, the captain stated, "You have control." The airplane accelerated west on taxiway Kilo. Tower controllers noticed the departure roll, and the airport's emergency phone to the fire department was activated. The local controller did not make a radio call to the crew to abort the takeoff as he felt it was too late. The airplane took off, proceeded to its destination and landed without further incident. After departure, main landing gear tire impressions were found in a snow berm at the west end of taxiway Kilo. The available taxiway distance from Romeo to the end of Kilo is about 6,800 feet. The calculated takeoff distance for the airplane was 7,746 feet."
The investigation into the serious incident reveals:
[…] "The cockpit navigation display for the Airbus A340 depicts the airplane's heading along a rotating arc near the top of the navigational display, along with a yellow airplane symbol and a white runway symbol. Taxiway Romeo and Kilo are equipped with green centerline lights having variable illumination intensity through three settings. The taxiway centerline lights for Romeo and Kilo were set on the standard (level 1) intensity level. The intersection of taxiway Kilo and Romeo has a yellow centerline stripe in the radius of the turn from Romeo to Kilo, but no centerline lights along the radius of the turn. The intersection of Kilo and the extended portion of runway 32 have a yellow centerline stripe in the radius of the turn from Kilo onto the extended centerline of runway 32, but no centerline lights along the radius of the turn. The centerline lights of Kilo did not extend through the extended portion of runway 32. Some reflective material of each taxiway centerline marking was indistinct, missing, or obscured by small patches of ice. The incident flight was the captain's first trip from Anchorage. It was the first time he flew with the first officer, and he had flown with the reserve captain on numerous occasions. The operator's aircraft operating manual for the Airbus fleet did not contain a checklist requirement for the crew to verbalize and verify the runway in use before takeoff."
The NTSB determines the probable cause(s) of this incident as follows:
- "The captain's selection of a taxiway instead of a runway for takeoff and the flightcrew's inadequate coordination of the departure, which resulted in a departure from a taxiway. A factor in the incident was inadequate airline operator's procedures that did not require the crew to verbilize and verify the runway in use prior to takeoff."
No Safety Recommendations are included in the report.