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On November 10, 2006, at 2312 central standard time, a Boeing 717-200, N956AT, registered to Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA Trustee and operated by Air Tran Airways, Inc. as flight 527, taxied into a ditch after landing at Memphis International Airport (MEM), Memphis, Tennessee. The scheduled, domestic, passenger flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 121 and an instrument flight plan was filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The airline transport-rated captain, airline transport-rated first officer, 3 flight attendants, and 117 passengers were not injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. The flight originated from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ALT), Atlanta, Georgia, on November 10, 2006, at 2305 eastern standard time.
The captain stated that it rained heavily prior to the arrival of the flight. However, it was not raining at the time of the accident. He said that he took over the controls of the airplane after the first officer landed the airplane, and exited at taxiway S4. The local controller cleared the flight to cross runway 36C at Kilo. As he exited runway 36R, he asked the first officer "where is Kilo?" She responded "on the right," indicating that Kilo was to their right. As he crossed 36C and entered the junction at Kilo, Charlie, and Charlie 5 he noticed that gate C16 was to his left side. He saw the marshaller and turned left towards the gate. He stated that he thought that he was on the ramp pavement, and did not see any blue taxiway lights between them and the gate at that point. He continued to veer left and started to line up with the gate. Shortly thereafter, he saw the marshaller and thought that he was marshalling them in. Both flight crewmembers stated that they did not realize that the airplane had rolled off the taxiway until they felt the impact of the nose landing gear against the concrete drainage ditch.
The first officer stated that she was the pilot flying the airplane, and the flight was "normal and standard." She said that some bad weather and heavy rain had passed through Memphis shortly before they arrived. However, the visibility was good although the surfaces were wet. She said that after she landed on runway 36R, she handed over the controls to the captain. At that point, she was instructed by the tower controller to "make the next left turn, cross 36C on Kilo, and taxi to the ramp on this frequency." She said that once the airplane was clear of runway 36C and established on the taxiway, it was the appropriate time to be "heads-down" and complete the checklist.
The marshaller stated that the aircraft landed from the south. Two wing walkers were positioned on the ramp while waiting for the arriving aircraft. The aircraft made a u-turn off the runway to a taxiway towards the south. The taxiing aircraft then slowed, turned off the nose gear lights and came to rest at the bottom of a grassy ditch across from the Air Tran Airways gate area. The marshaller then called emergency services and the supervisor on duty.
The captain, age 43, held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multiengine land, single-engine land, and rotorcraft helicopter. The captain's most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate was issued on October 17, 2006, with the limitation that he "must wear corrective lenses."
Air Tran reported that the captain had accumulated 10,669 hours total flying time. His total flying time in the Boeing 717-200 was 1,642 hours, with 1,333 hours as pilot-in-command. The captain had flown 150 hours in the last 90 days, 34 hours in the last 30 days, and 2 hours in the last 24 hours. The captain completed his flight review, and flight simulator training on August 29, 2006.
The first officer, age 36, held an airline transport pilot certificate with a rating for airplane multiengine land and a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for single-engine land. Her most recent FAA first-class medical certificate was issued on November 17, 2005, with no limitations or waivers.
Air Tran reported that the first officer had accumulated 4,090 hours total flying time. Her total flying time in the Boeing 717-200 was 333 hours. The first officer had not flown in the last 90 days. The first officer completed her flight review, and flight simulator training on December 30, 2005.
The accident airplane, a Boeing 717-200, was manufactured in 2000 and had accumulated 17,847.55 total flight hours. The airplane was maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's inspection program. The airplane's most recent inspection was completed on November 10, 2006.
A review of recorded data from the MEM automated weather observation station revealed that at 2353, conditions were winds 340 degrees at 15 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, cloud conditions overcast at 13,000 feet, temperature 12 degrees centigrade, and dewpoint temperature 9 degrees centigrade.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site by an FAA inspector revealed the aircraft traveled 250 feet on taxiway Charlie before making a 90-degree turn east and departing the taxiway onto the grass between taxiways Charlie and Juliet. The airplanes nose wheel then struck a concrete drainage ditch. This resulted in the airplane's nose landing gear collapsing and a puncture to the airplane's forward pressure vessel.
TEST AND RESEARCH
According to the Airport Safety and Certification Division, FAA Southern Region, all of the taxiway signs, and taxiway lights were lit and working properly at the time of the accident. The taxiway edge markings were correct and the centerline was in place. The signs and markings at MEM were in accordance with the officially approved sign plan and Airport Certification Manual.