Dulles Night Takeoff on Unlit Runway an Incursion

 - October 2, 2007, 11:29 AM

At about 3:13 a.m. on September 12, a Learjet 35 operated by National Jets under Part 135 took off from unlit Runway 19R at Washington Dulles International Airport. According to the NTSB, the runway was closed for survey work and runway lights were off. The closure was broadcast on ATIS and noted on the tower’s ground radar and status displays. FAA associate administrator for aviation safety Nick Sabatini said, “The pilot had the current ATIS. The controller’s next instructions were to taxi into position and hold on the closed, unlit runway. Finally, the controller issued takeoff clearance. The flight crew acknowledged and followed each of these instructions and took off from the closed unlit runway.” Fortunately, the survey truck driver “heard the clearance, told the tower what he was doing and bailed out. He just took his truck and drove off the runway. It was a close call, about 500 feet.” Under newly adopted ICAO standards, the FAA now defines incursions to include “unauthorized runway encroachment,” which means this incident is classified as an incursion.