On April 25, 2000, at 0928 central daylight time, a Boeing 777-223ER, N779AN, operated as American Airlines flight #90 to London, England, piloted by an airline transport rated captain and copilot, sustained no damage on departure from runway 32R, a closed runway, at O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Chicago, Illinois. The scheduled international 14 CFR Part 121 passenger flight was operating on an IFR flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the incident. The 3 flight crewmembers, 12 cabin crewmembers, and 152 passengers were uninjured. The flight was originating at the time of the incident and landed at Heathrow Airport, near London, England, without further incident. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
O'Hare airport operations issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) listed as number 0004206. The NOTAM stated "RWY [runway] 14L/32R CLSD [closed]" from 0830 to 1030 on April 25, 2000. The purpose of the runway closure was for "electrical maintenance." (See appended O'Hare airport NOTAM.)
The flight's dispatch was reviewed. The dispatch's NOTAM section listed NOTAM "04/156 ORD 14L/32R CLSD WEF (ICAO contraction meaning with effect from, or effective from) 0004251330-0004251530" in it. The dispatch's ORD Field Report section indicated "14L/32R OPEN [status,] DRY [conditions, and] NORMAL [braking action]." (See appended flight dispatch.)
The runway closure, advised in NOTAM 04/156, was not broadcast on ORD Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS) Whiskey. Information Whiskey was current at the time of departure.
The first officer's stated, "After normal preflight and gate departure. We advised metering that we were ready for taxi and would prefer 32R if available. Ground gave us clearance to taxi to 32R. Tower first had us hold short and then position and hold awaiting the departure of two aircraft from intersecting runways. We were then cleared for takeoff." Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control personnel, as required by FAA Order 7110.65, did not inform the pilot that the runway was closed. The first officer stated, "Three days later we were advised that we may have taken off on a closed runway."
The FAA convened an investigative team to explore the circumstances surrounding the operational error. The team developed recommendations. Excerpts of the recommendations stated, "Add the suggestion to our list of good operating procedures that closure strips should not be used as departure strip runway separators. Closure strips should be placed and left in a prominent position on the podiums. ... In addition to Locals and Grounds receiving runway closure strips, both Flight Data and Ground Metering should have closure strips as well. ... Revise Flight Data, Clearance Delivery, and Ground Metering positions relief checklists to include runway closure information. Brief operational personnel that runway closures must be broadcast on the ATIS. Brief operational personnel that pilots must be informed that a runway is closed when it is requested for takeoff/landing. Brief operational supervisors of the requirement to ensure ATIS broadcasts are correct and contain pertinent information." (See appended FAA reports.)