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TSB releases report into 2023 misaligned takeoff by a Canadian airline at Harry Reid International Airport, United States

Gatineau, Quebec, 23 April, 2024 -  Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (A23F0062) into a 2023 misaligned takeoff at Harry Reid International Airport (KLAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States (US).

In the evening of 16 February 2023, a WestJet Boeing 737-7CT aircraft was departing from Las Vegas to Edmonton International Airport, Alberta, with five crew members and 109 passengers on board. The aircraft took off while aligned with the right edge of the runway, and its right nosewheel contacted eight runway edge lights. The flight crew were unaware of the misaligned takeoff and subsequent contact with the edge lights, and the aircraft continued to Edmonton, where it landed uneventfully. The next day, a WestJet maintenance crew noted minor damage to the right tire on the nose landing gear and replaced both nosewheel tires before releasing the aircraft back into service. The airport operator at KLAS discovered the damage to the runway edge lights 32 hours after the occurrence; it notified the airline operator of the damage to the runway edge lights eight days after the occurrence.

The investigation found that the first officer’s high workload contributed to his attention being focused primarily on managing tasks within the cockpit as the aircraft was taking position for takeoff. As a result, he was unable to provide additional support in visually aligning the aircraft in the proper position. As well, influenced by his perceived time pressure to depart, the captain’s attention was focused primarily on the first officer and setting take-off thrust. This diverted his attention away from laterally aligning the aircraft on the runway. When the aircraft was turning right onto the runway in preparation for takeoff, the captain perceived the right runway edge marking as the runway centreline and the right runway edge lights as the centreline lights. The limited and ambiguous visual cues that were available likely met the captain’s expectation that the aircraft was aligned on the runway. As a result, the aircraft was aligned laterally with the right edge of the runway, rather than with its centre.

The aircraft’s contact with the eight runway edge lights was not recognized by the flight crew because they perceived the sounds and vibrations to be normal contact with the embedded runway centreline lights and consequently continued with the departure.

Following the occurrence, WestJet issued a company memo to all pilots warning them of the potential risks of inadvertently lining up with the runway edge during nighttime departures at airports with differing runway and taxiway markings and lighting, and the mitigations in place to minimize these threats. The memo also highlighted several ground-based threats at Harry Reid International Airport. Additionally, WestJet’s Flight Operations team examined and updated its Route and Aerodrome Qualification documents for Harry Reid International Airport.

In the fall of 2023, the Harry Reid International Airport authority implemented a three-phase plan to address runway and taxiway conspicuity, which is estimated to be completed by fall 2025.

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-360-4376