Thursday, September 25, 2014

Human error likely the reason for planes not landing at Wilmington International Airport (KILM), North Carolina


Human error was likely the reason two flights could not land in Wilmington Wednesday night, according to ILM Airport Operations Director Gary Broughton.

Broughton explained that construction is being done on one of the ILM Airport runways. He said for that reason, navigational aids on the runways were scheduled to be shut off at 12:15 am Thursday morning.

Broughton said navigational aids are instrument landing system lights that allow the pilots to see the airport runways. He said the airlines require the aids be used for plane landings. He elaborated that the airport turns them off so that pilots do not try to land on a runway under construction.

Broughton said it seemed that due to human error from within the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the navigational aids were shut off at 11:15 pm Wednesday instead of 12:15 am Thursday.

Broughton said two planes tried to land after 11:15 pm, a US Airways flight from Charlotte and a Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta. Broughton said the planes could not land because navigational aids had been turned off.

He said fog probably played a part in the situation, but the main reason the planes did not land was because the navigational aids had been turned off.

Broughton explained that the airports air traffic control tower is closed from 11 pm to 6 am. He said this has been the airport's standard practice. He said the FAA at the Washington Center in Washington D.C. controls the air space when the tower is closed.

Broughton said he believes this is an isolated incident.

The Federal Aviation Administration made the following statement in response to what happened:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  is investigating why the Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) on Runway 6/24 at Wilmington Intl. Airport were turned off one hour earlier than scheduled last night.  The FAA planned to deactivate both ILS at 12:15 am for runway construction, they were disabled at 11:15 pm.  Two air carrier flights that were scheduled to land during that hour returned to their departure airports.   ILSs are installed at both ends of the runway, they enable aircraft to land when visibility is low. 

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