Oops! Pilot mistakes a closed taxiway for the main runway

General Aviation News will often reprint excerpts from US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident reports including this one from July 2009 about an incident that involved a Piper Cherokee in Hibbing, Minnesota taking off from the taxiway by mistake.

Apparently at the time of accident, the airport’s taxiway had been closed for painting and there was a NOTAM that noted that the taxiway was closed. However, temporary markings were being painted onto the taxiway so that it could also be used as a temporary runway at some point. 

Nevertheless and at the time of the incident, the airport’s main runway was still open for normal flight operations. However, the pilot later said that he thought the taxiway was the main active runway after he saw the temporary runway markings and he only discovered his mistake after crashing into a construction barricade during the takeoff – resulting in substantial damage to the aircraft.

Hence, the probable cause of the accident was ruled the pilot mistaking the closed taxiway for the main runway. In other words, be sure that you know and understand the layout of any airport that you takeoff from or land at.

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