Lawnmower alert on airport runway
Published 04/03/2010 | 07:01
A startled pilot involved in a late-night near-miss at Dublin Airport radioed air traffic controllers to tell them he thought he saw a lawnmower on a runway.
After the Boeing 737 carrying about 200 people from an Egyptian resort touched down, the co-pilot told colleagues in the cockpit he "noticed a lawnmower too close to the runway edge lighting".
The plane's wing tip passed a few metres over the head of a maintenance man on the ride-on machine seconds after landing.
An air accident investigation detailed radio contact between the crew and air traffic controllers when one of the disbelieving pilots said: "Could have sworn I saw a man riding a lawnmower."
The incident happened in thick fog on May 29 last year at 1.53am after Dublin Airport Authority sent out three teams to cut grass along runways.
During the investigation one supervisor told how he had heard of workers being told in training to ride lawnmowers down the centre landing line when on the runway. The driver of the lawnmower involved in the near-miss had minutes earlier been asked to leave the airfield because of poor visibility, but not because of the danger of landing aircraft.
The Irish Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) found the small ride-on grass mower had been moving along the runway a number of metres inside the edge lighting.
It had no rear lighting or flashing beacon and it was not equipped with any airband radio equipment capable of listening out on the control tower frequency, the report found. The driver was unaware an aircraft was landing until he heard a powerful screech of brakes behind him.
The DAA has already adopted a series of recommendations and upgraded its grass-cutting machinery.
The AAIU found the failure of the driver of the ride-on mower T3 to leave the runway after he had been instructed to do so caused the near-miss. But it also listed other contributing factors including that the supervisor assumed the driver had left, the lack of a warning from the supervisor that a plane was approaching, grass-cutting machines without special beacons or radios and the poor visibility.