NTSB Identification: SEA03IA046.
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Scheduled 14 CFR American Airlines
Incident occurred Friday, March 14, 2003 in Seattle, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/28/2004
Aircraft: Boeing DC-9-82, registration: N298AA
Injuries: 111 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various sources and may not have traveled in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft incident report.

Initially the flight crew planned to execute the visual approach to Runway 16 Right backed up by the ILS, but because there was a ceiling over the final approach course, they were advised to expect the ILS. The flight was then vectored to a 15 mile final and cleared for the ILS approach. About four to five miles from the end of the runway, at about 3,500 feet above the ground (AGL), the flight crew passed through the cloud deck, made visual contact with the runway environment, and transitioned to visual navigation. According to the information collected from the flight data recorder, the aircraft started a constant-rate deviation to the right of the localizer approximately the same time as it broke out of the clouds. During this deviation the flight crew maintained a heading that was taking them directly to the "approach end" of Taxiway Charlie. Neither the Captain nor the First Officer were aware they were lined up on the taxiway, and they did not know they had landed on the taxiway until advised by the tower. A rain shower had recently moved through the area, and although there was an overcast over the center and north end of the airport, south of the field rays of sunlight were shining through holes in the clouds, resulting in a degradation of the visual clues that would normally help the flight crew differentiate between the runway and the taxiway.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this incident to be:

The flight crew's misidentification of the parallel taxiway as the active runway, resulting in the flight crew executing a landing on the taxiway. Factors include sunglare from the wet paved surfaces, and a visual illusion created by the airport surface environment.

Full narrative available

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