Flying Cheap

Incident - Oct. 30, 2006 - Seattle, Wash.

The flight, operated by Alaska Airlines Inc., was scheduled to depart from Seattle, Wash. en route to Juneau,Alaska.

Fatalities 0
Serious injuries0
Minor injuries0
Source: National Transportation Safety Board accident database system (ADMS2000), last updated Jan 1, 2010

Final Summary

The captain of the Boeing 737 stated that there was a short delay at the gate because of a "cargo issue." The automatic terminal information service broadcast indicated that departures were using runway 34R, either with the full length or from the intersection at taxiway Q. The ground controller cleared the flight to taxi to runway 34R at taxiway Q. During the taxi, the first officer was busy talking with dispatch and completing the flight paperwork while the captain taxied the airplane and handled the ATC communications. The flight crew received the amended flight release as the airplane approached taxiway Q. The captain then switched to the local control frequency and heard the local controller (LC) issue the flight clearance to taxi into position and hold on runway 34C. The captain read back the clearance, including "runway 34 center." As the FO was completing the preflight activities, the LC cleared the flight for takeoff from runway 34C and indicated that there was traffic on short final. The captain again repeated the clearance for takeoff on runway "34 center." However, the captain lined up the airplane on the 34R centerline and transferred control to the FO. The airplane departed uneventfully. The LC noticed the airplane departing on runway 34C and did not order an abort because there were no potential traffic conflicts.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board accident database system (ADMS2000), last updated Jan 1, 2010

Cause

the flight crew's failure to cross-check and verify that the airplane was on the correct runway before takeoff. Contributing to the incident was the flight crew's self-induced pressure to heed the takeoff clearance during a period of increased workload.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board accident database system (ADMS2000), last updated Jan 1, 2010

Factual Narrative

HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On October 30, 2006, Alaska Airlines flight 61, a Boeing 737, N740AS, took off from runway 34R instead of runway 34C (center), which was the assigned runway, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, Washington. None of the 5 crewmembers and the 71 passengers was injured, and the airplane was not damaged. The airplane, which was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, continued uneventfully to its destination of Juneau International Airport, Juneau, Alaska.

According to the captain of the flight, there was a short delay at the gate because of "a cargo issue." As a result, the flight crew had to correct the flight paperwork and obtain an amended release from dispatch. While at the gate, the first officer (FO) of the flight obtained the automatic terminal information service (ATIS) information "Golf" and received the flight's air traffic control clearance via the aircraft communications addressing and reporting system. ATIS "Golf" indicated that both full-length and taxiway Q intersection takeoff operations were being conducted from runway 34R.

According to the flight crewmembers, during the delay at the gate, they performed a taxi briefing, which included a departure briefing from runway 34R. After pushback from the gate, the ground controller instructed the flight to follow another airplane to runway 34R at taxiway Q.

The captain stated that he was taxiing slowly to allow time for dispatch to send the amended release. During the "short taxi," the captain handled the radios, and the FO worked with dispatch to complete the flight paperwork. As the flight approached taxiway Q, the FO received the amended release. The captain then switched over to the tower frequency and heard the local controller (LC) instruct the flight to taxi the airplane into position and hold on runway 34C. The captain stated that, even though he read back "34 center" to the controller, he was still thinking that the airplane would be taking off from runway 34R. During this time, the FO was completing the preflight activities.

The LC then issued the flight takeoff clearance from runway 34C and indicated that there was traffic on short final. The captain stated that he "was sure the tower controller said runway 34C" and "read back what he heard" but that he "was thinking runway 34R." As the airplane taxied onto the centerline, the captain conducted a compass check and then transferred control of the airplane to the FO. The airplane departed uneventfully from runway 34R. The flight crew stated that the first indication that the airplane had departed from the wrong runway was when the controller informed them after takeoff.

According to the local controller, he was scanning the runways and noticed that the airplane was rolling on runway 34R abeam the tower instead of runway 34C. Because there were no potential air traffic conflicts at the time, the controller thought that it would be safer to let the airplane depart from runway 34R than to have the pilots abort the takeoff.

AIRPORT INFORMATION
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has two operational runways, 16L/34R and 16C/34C. Runway 16R/34L is currently under construction. Runway 16L/34R is 11,901 feet long and 150 ft. wide. Runway 16L/34R is 9,426 feet long and 150 feet wide. Runway 34R has 9,426 feet remaining from intersection Q.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board accident database system (ADMS2000), last updated Jan 1, 2010