Amsterdam’s Schiphol Saw 16 Landings On An Unavailable Runway

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On 18 January an incident involving a Transavia Boeing 737 led to the closure of runway 09/27 at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The 737 had safely landed but was forced to hold on the runway as a safety pin in the aircraft’s nose gear had to be removed. As a result, a number of aircraft landed on runway 18C/36C – a runway that was not yet available to Dutch air traffic control.

The incident took place at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Photo: Qwesy qwesy via WIkimedia Commons

Runway not formally available to ATC

With runway 09/27 now unavailable due to Transavia’s flight HV706, Dutch air traffic control – also known as LVNL (Luchtverkeersleiding Nederland), directed aircraft to land on runway 18C/36C. The key issue is that this particular runway was not formally available to LVNL.

Reported by Aviation24, LVNL made the following official statement:

“These landings took place over a period of 25 minutes…All parties involved were aware of the use of runway 18C /36C (Zwanenburgbaan). The runway had been inspected, and the runway lighting with the corresponding stopbars that protect against unauthorized entry onto the runway had been switched on. This ensured that there was no risk of collision.”

With all runways at Schiphol having ‘common names’, the runway’s name “Zwanenburgbaan” comes from the village of Zwanenburg.

Aviation24.be reports that LVNL has reported the incident to the Dutch Safety Board (Onderzoeksraad voor Veiligheid) but is also conducting its own investigation into the occurrence.

Proper procedure for runway usage

In this particular context, there is a proper procedure that air traffic control must follow in order to use a runway. First, it must notify the airport from the air traffic control tower about its intention to use the runway. It must also state the exact time usage should begin.

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KLM E190
Amsterdam Schiphol is the third busiest airport in Europe, behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle. It is also the home to Dutch flag carrier, KLM. Photo: KLM

Next, an inspection of the runway needs to happen to ensure suitability. This part of the procedure is completed by the airport. Upon completion of the inspection, LVNL must submit a formal request to the airport to start using the runway.

As the above incident had to be reported and LVNL and the Dutch Safety Board are investigating, we can assume that this procedure wasn’t carried out fully, but this is unclear.

Runways at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport

According to the airport’s website, two runways are in use at Schiphol at all times. One runway is for take-offs, and the other one is used for landing aircraft. However, the airport says that during peak times a third or even a fourth runway may be brought into use. LVNL says that at these peak times, more than 100 flights are handled per hour.

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Amsterdam Schiphol and its runways. Photo: LVNL

LVNL says that during exceptional circumstances, only one runway may be in use for both take-offs and landings. Which runways are used depends on weather and wind conditions. In fact, many different runway combinations of two and three runways are possible, LVNL’s website states.

Do you think that air traffic control personnel will face consequences for their decision? Let us know your opinion in the comments section.

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