On January 7, 1997, at 1947 central standard time, an Aerospatiale ATR 42-320, N14829, was substantially damaged while taxiing at the Houston Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas. Three passengers sustained minor injuries and there were no injuries to the 3 crewmembers, and the remaining 10 passengers. The airplane, owned and operated by Continental Express Airlines as Jet Link flight 3777, was on a scheduled revenue flight from Shreveport, Louisiana, to the Houston Intercontinental Airport. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the scheduled Title 14 CFR Part 121 flight for which an instrument flight plan was filed. The airplane departed from Shreveport, Louisiana at approximately 1900.

According to the operator, after a night ILS approach and landing on runway 8, flight 3777 was cleared to their gate in Terminal "C" via taxiways NA to NK, the IAB ramp, and across the east bridge to the Continental Express ramp. The taxiways were wet or damp, and the captain reported that there was glare on the windshield from the lights illuminating the terminal area.

In an statement to the FAA, the captain stated that after turning south on NK, he taxied the airplane towards the IAB terminal, and saw what appeared to be a hard surface ramp to the left and right of the airplane and he proceeded to make a left turn believing that he was now taxiing on the IAB ramp. The captain reported that the airport diagram on the Jeppesen charts showed the intersection of NK and the IAB ramp to be a "T" or 90 degree turn, but in reality, the intersection is constructed at a 45 degree angle to the left of taxiway NK which joins the IAB ramp. A copy of the chart in question is enclosed.

The captain further stated that no lights were available to outline the edge of the ramp area. The pilot added that he continued to taxi in an east direction, believing that he was on the IAB ramp. The airplane taxied off the hard surface into the grass, coming to rest approximately 50 feet beyond the edge of the hard surface area of the taxiway.

According to the airport's operations personnel, the taxiway is properly marked with a solid center line and the area is bordered by a double yellow line delineating the edge of the taxiway. Additionally, at the time of the accident, recessed taxiway lights were in place to further delineate the edge of the taxiway. One of the lights, located approximately 50 feet north of the point were the airplane left the pavement, was reported out of service at the time of the accident. The airport operations personnel further stated that the taxiways were dry at the time of the accident.

The last Metar weather observation issued prior to the accident that reflected any type of precipitation was the 1754 observation which confirmed that the rain ended at 1711, approximately 2 hours and 26 minutes before the accident. A copy of the recorded weather reports is enclosed in this report.

The passengers deplaned the aircraft by normal means and were bussed to the terminal building without further incident. Examination of the airplane by the operator and the FAA inspector confirmed that the pressured bulkhead sustained structural damage. The operator added that the damage incurred by the airframe and landing gear exceeded $800,000.

In the enclosed NTSB Pilot/Operator Report, the operator stated that the lighting on the east-west taxiway in question consist of centerline lights only, with no edge lighting available. The operator also cites that there are "an inordinately high number of lights on the terminal buildings directly in front of the taxi-way that could affect a pilot's vision when entering the taxiway toward the terminal."

The recessed lights were converted by airport authorities to standard "raised" lights after the accident.

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