Port of Seattle officials say it was not an emergency situation. And the FAA says no vehicles or aircraft were on the taxiway at the time.
An Alaska Airlines flight from Chicago this month mistakenly landed on a taxiway instead of one of three runways at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Flight 27 was cleared to land at about 8:30 a.m. Dec. 19 on either Sea-Tac’s newly reconstructed center runway or the right runway. Instead, the plane landed in between the two on a taxiway called T, or Tango, which is mainly used by aircraft as they taxi to and from the terminal or the various runways.
There were no injuries, and Port of Seattle airport spokesman Perry Cooper said it is likely nobody on the aircraft even knew anything was different.
“There was no alert; it wasn’t an emergency situation,” he said. “They landed safely and then taxied to the gate.”
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The FAA and Alaska Airlines are both investigating the incident but would not elaborate. FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer did say there were no vehicles or aircraft on the taxiway when the plane landed.
Cooper said this is the first time in 11 years, or about 1.75 million aircraft landings, that a plane has accidentally landed on a taxiway instead of a runway at Sea-Tac — and the fourth time in the airport’s history.
It happened in 2000, 2003 and 2004, all before Sea-Tac’s third runway was completed in 2008. Cooper said part of the confusion then may have been because the taxiway at the time was the farthest to the right and mistaken for the right runway.
After an investigation into the 2004 incident, the Port helped educate pilots by assisting with brochures and placing an alert on the Air Terminal Information System, which Cooper likened to tuning in to AM 530 to listen to traffic updates on Interstate 5.
A brochure sent to all pilot associations at the time said: “Taxiway Tango has been mistaken for Runway 16R during certain visibility conditions, i.e., wet runway, low sun angle reflections, etc. Aircrews are advised to be aware of the proximity of the taxiway to the runway and its runway-like appearance while on approach.”
Taxiway Tango is now between the center runway and the right runway and about the same length, but a little bit narrower, Cooper said. Runways have distinct white markings while taxiways have yellow markings that don’t stand out, he said.
Cooper said the airport will work with the FAA if the investigation finds changes are needed to the runway and or taxiway.
“Obviously there is no pattern here,” he said. “Hopefully it is just a one-time thing, they find what the situation was and we’ll all be able to move on from there.”