Pilots suspended after taking off in the wrong direction!

Hello community! I’m back with another interesting incident that took place on 18th sep, 2018.

The flight, Air Arabia 111, was scheduled to fly from Sharjah to Salalah using an Airbus A320. Note that Air Arabia is based in Sharjah, so generally you’d expect pilots to be most familiar with operating procedures at their home airport (they should of course know how to operate at any airport based on reading charts and NOTAMs, but my point is that they should have a special familiarity).

Sharjah Airport has a runway that’s over 13,000 feet long, which is really long, and could accommodate any plane. So it’s not unusual for an airplane to perform an intersection takeoff. The plane was supposed to depart from runway 30 at the intersection with taxiway B14.

This intersection is located about 3,350 feet from the end of the runway, meaning the plane would still have about 10,000 feet to take-off, which is more than enough.

However, instead the plane took off in the opposite direction, where it only had about 3,350 feet of runway left. The crew managed to become airborne in time and avoid obstacles, and the flight continued as scheduled to Salalah.

A day after the incident, Air Arabia banned intersection takeoffs, and both pilots have been suspended pending an investigation.

The fact that this happened is just sort of unfathomable, especially at an airport the pilots should have been familiar with:

  • Did neither pilot visually notice that they only had a few thousand feet of runway?
  • Did neither pilot look at the compass heading or any of the other visual clues to make sure they were taking off in the right direction?
  • Did neither pilot realize their mistake when they started their takeoff roll, and make the decision to abort the takeoff?

So, how much runway does an A320 need? It depends on all kinds of factors, including the winds, temperature, takeoff weight, how much power is used for takeoff, and more. However, the general estimates I’ve seen range anywhere from 3,500 feet to 6,500 feet, with the 3,500 number being on the very low end for an empty flight.

I assume this flight wasn’t anywhere close to its maximum takeoff weight, or I think this may have ended differently.

Here’s a picture to make u understand what happened :

image

Here’s how they were supposed to takeoff:

image

Source- https://www.instagram.com/p/BoBxqQrgDfM/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=10kidahtjzweq

Have a nice day! Hope you all are enjoying the new TBM. Let me know your thoughts about this incident below!

15 Likes

They lost their sense of awareness and direction, send them back to the simulator!

12 Likes

LOL. I hope the ATC ghosted them! 😛

24 Likes

If they were heavier, we could have been hearing another aviation plane crash. I’m glad that was not the case.

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Did someone use the iPhone compass here (they sometimes freeze)? 😂

I don’t know which is funnier, the joke or the fact that I am actually more of an Apple fan.

In all seriousness, this shows how easily humans can make mistakes, sometimes even obvious ones. From an addition mistake in the exam to a program bug that could crash a server, humans can do anything. Which is why I advocate having a checklist in your head, and rechecking what you do before you do it.

2 Likes

How do you mess that up. Were you not looking out the window on depatures in front of you

2 Likes

Classic distraction.

I haven’t operated to this field but I do know that, in Riyadh for example, the winds can be light and variable leading to runway changes. Now in major international traffic you would denote the runway and then not change it due to arriving and departing traffic profiles. In smaller or less busy airfields this isn’t so much of a problem. Perhaps they have loaded the FMS and departure profile for one runway direction and then not bothered to check the ATIS to see if there has been a runway change. Accepted the taxy and departure clearances and disappeared off in the wrong direction!!!

The standard Airbus checklists call for a cross check and confirmation of departure in the FMS and departure point from the runway. These should have flagged up the incorrect departure if the FMS had been mis-loaded.

It seems to me that they were expecting one clearance, received another and then took off in contravention of the ATC clearance.

Normally this would happen for taking off from the wrong parallel runway of a taxy way, this one is quite unusual. The performance would be adequate for a local flight with not too much fuel.

All supposition on my part obviously. Be interesting to see what the actual causes behind this are.

ATB

6 Likes

I’ve done that in IF In my times of being a noob pilot.

1 Like

What time of day did this happen?
If it happened at night, the pilots should have noticed that the runway lights were on the red side.
But if it happened during the day, there should’ve been plenty of visual cues indicating they were facing the wrong way.

Also, modern airliners don’t have a system that warns the pilots they’re facing the wrong way?

2 Likes

Not if they were expecting a departure in that direction and had loaded the aircraft accordingly.

If it’s changed after the set up and the brief then a thing called ‘confirmation bias’ comes into play where you won’t accept changes if they don’t conform to what you believe you should be doing.

It’s more common than you think and yet another reason to have 2 pilots in the flight deck of complex jets. Obviously didn’t work too well in this case!

2 Likes

Checked the flight schedule and flight G9-111 is supposed to depart at around 4:20 PM

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Also how did ATC not notice?

Probably cleared for line up and take-off if the airfield is quiet.

Drive on to the runway, throttle up in the (wrong direction) turn and take-off.

ATC probably didn’t have the time to notice!

I blame google maps…

Complacency kills.

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What??? You mean taxi don’t you.

Nope, driving, it sends aviation enthusiasts nuts!

;)

5 Likes

Well it wasn’t plane sailing for them

1 Like

Excuse me who gave these two a pilot’s license? Somehow both of them missed the fact that they were facing the wrong way… I think this is unacceptable for a commercial pilot.

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