Flight delay means pilot only just cleared end of Luton Airport runway

Luton Airport

Luton Airport - Credit: Archant

A close shave when a plane narrowly cleared a runway at Luton Airport was serious enough to warrant an examination by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

Long-running campaign group London Luton Airport Town and Villages Communities Committee (LLATVCC) revealed that a departure which used less than the full length of the runway during a busy period last July was “another aspect of expansion”.

The group said that a pilot had originally intended to make a full-length take-off, “but things were busy”.

There was a delay to the departure clearance of a previous flight, which meant the pilot chose to take a shorter take-off run from the intersection of the taxiway and the runway.

LLATVCC added: “Though he increased the take-off flap setting he neglected to also adjust the power setting for the reduced distance available.

“[The] net result was that the aircraft just about achieved a take-off, becoming airborne with only three aircraft lengths remaining, and clearing the end of the runway by less than the aircraft’s length.”

The airbus was carrying 178 passengers, none of whom were injured.

Campaigners highlighted the incident in a newsletter, as the AAIB has recently released its findings.

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LLATVCC raised the incident at a meeting with Luton, warning that “the busier the airport gets, the greater the risk of further last-minute changes being made to flight plans to avoid a bit of delay.”

However the managing director “assured the meeting the growth didn’t imply any reduction in safety”.

The AAIB said the aircraft became airborne with about 180m of runway remaining.

As a result of its findings on the incident, an article in the Flight Safety Bulletin was to outline the “severity and hazards” of not cross checking performance calculations, and “highlight the importance of take-off calculations made as a result of last minute changes to take-off distances”.