Near-collision prompted changes at Juneau airport

Posted: Friday, June 09, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The near-collision of a snowplow and an Alaska Airlines jet at the Juneau Airport in November prompted procedural and communications changes, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator said.

The hours of the airport's control tower were extended, ground workers got added awareness training, and more stringent aircraft location procedures were put in place, investigator Scott Erickson told the Juneau Empire for a story in Friday's edition.

The NTSB released its fact-finding report on the incident and plans to release a conclusion on probable cause sometime in the future.

The Alaska Airlines flight from Sitka was carrying 53 passengers and five crew members when it landed at about 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 2, 15 minutes before the airport control tower was scheduled to open.

The 737-400 jet came to within 32 feet of the snowplow, according to the report.

The Federal Aviation Administration's flight service station knew the airport was training a new employee on a snowplow on the runway, according to the report.

When the airport control tower is closed -- from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. in November -- airport workers and pilots communicate by radio with the FAA flight service station, which is not within sight of the runway.

At 6:32 on the morning of the incident, the Alaska Airlines jet told the FAA it was at the Sisters intersection about 25 miles from the airport, the report said.

At 6:34, the snowplow driver called the FAA station and said: ''... if you have no reported traffic, like to have men and equipment on the runway.''

At 6:35, the FAA specialist responded: ''No known traffic at this time, the jet's due in, in about 10 minutes at 45 (minutes past the hour).''

At 6:42, Flight 73 called the FAA station and said: ''Ah, we just landed and there was a truck on the runway; we, ah, just barely missed it ... we had to swerve very far to the left of the runway to miss the truck.''

The FAA specialist responded that he was sorry and that he had missed Flight 73's last position report.

''With the tower closed, the airspace is basically uncontrolled airspace,'' Erickson said.

The airport has since expanded its control tower hours: from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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