ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Air traffic controllers say they didn't try to stop the wrong-way takeoff of a China Airlines jet last Friday because they feared it was going too fast to stop.
The Airbus 340, carrying about 250 people, took off in the wrong direction and from a taxiway instead of a runway at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The incident occurred at 2:45 a.m.
The jet managed to take off, but barely averting disaster. The jet's wheels scraped a snow berm as it lifted off at the end of the taxiway.
The flight landed safely in Taipei later Friday. China Airlines has grounded the three-person crew while it investigates the incident, according to Hamilton Liu, China Air's station manager at Anchorage.
The controller communicating with the China Airlines pilot cleared the aircraft for takeoff on the airport's 11,000-foot-long north-south runway, said Joette Storm, spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot read back the instructions in English, the universal language for air-traffic control.
The controller turned away for an instant, Storm said. ''When he turned to look outside again, the plane was on its way down the taxiway.''
Given the plane's considerable speed on the 6,000-foot-long taxiway, controllers determined ''it would be better to allow them to proceed,'' she said.
''Once they brought the power up and were rolling and the controller noticed it, they did not call for an abort,'' said Scott Erickson, the National Transportation Safety Board's chief investigator on the incident.
''I think they were a bit concerned about whether they were going to get airborne.''
China Airlines officials told The Taipei Times that the suspension of the flight crew is company policy and does not imply guilt.
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