A KLM 737 was cleared for takeoff despite a vehicle being on the runway

A KLM Boeing 737-800, registration PH-BXB performing fought KL1431 from Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Birmingham (UK), was cleared to line up on runway 24 and wait as a KLM Cargo 747-400 was crossing the runway. 

Image copyright: aircraftspotting.de

After the 747 had vacated the runway, the KLM 737 was cleared or takeoff on the Tower frequency and began the takeoff roll.

Meanwhile a bird control vehicle, which was in contact with the Ground frequency, was cleared to enter the runway for a bird inspection. 

The Ground controller advised the Tower controller 6 seconds later and the KLM was instructed to stop. The crew rejected the takeoff at a speed of around 17 knots over ground.

Am almost identical incident had occurred in 2010 with the departing aircraft overflying the bird control vehicle. See the report on The Aviation Herald.

The Dutch Safety Board (DSB) released their final report concluding that the probable cause of the accident was: 

  • The runway incursion occurred because the tower controller issued clearance for takeoff after a crossing aircraft had vacated the runway, but a vehicle was still on the runway with clearance.
  • The overall picture of the situation in and around the runway of the tower controller was incomplete because there was no direct contact with the bird control vehicle.

Contributing facts:

  • The departing aircraft and the bird control vehicle were on different frequencies. 
  • The runway occupied signal did not provide information on how many aircraft/vehicles were on the runway.
  • The regulations for ATC operation did not require a flight strip to be produced for all “runway occupied” operations and to be subsequently removed. 
  • The “runway occupied ” signal and the “runway occupied” strips would reduce the risk of runway incursions, however do not always occur.
  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Luchtverkeersleiding (LVNL, ATC Netherlands) do not cooperate optimally in the area of safety. Under current (limited) jurisdiction the Schiphole Safety Platform, introduced in 2003 for knowledge sharing and risk assessment, investigated similar occurrences with the aim to prevent a repetition, which failed due to the non-ideal cooperation.
  • The safety investigations so far have not led to management measures to prevent a runway incursion event, although an almost identical case had been investigated.
  • Following those two occurrences, measures were taken by the LVNL, no further incident has occurred since.

The aircraft involved in the accident: 

Image copyright: aircraftspotting.de

Graphic reproducing the position of the 737 and the bird control vehicle:
Graphic by the DSB


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