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On October 11, 2007, at 7:40 pm Central daylight time, N241EP, a Cessna Citation 525, missed colliding with Pinnacle Airlines (FLG) Flight 5905, a CRJ 2, by approximately 400 to 500 feet while departing off a taxiway at Memphis International Airport, Memphis, Tennessee. N241EP departed on taxiway M and FLG5905 was stopped on taxiway M short of taxiway M6. N241EP was operating as a 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 flight and FLG5905 was operating as a scheduled passenger flight under 14 CFR Part 121 and both had filed instrument flight plans. There were no injuries to occupants and there was no damage to either aircraft. The incident occurred during night visual flight rules conditions.
FLG 5905 arrived from Montgomery Regional Airport (MGM), Montgomery, Alabama at 7:25 pm. The aircraft landed on runway 36R, turned off at taxiway P, crossed runway 36C and taxied to hold short of taxiway N, then were cleared to taxi via taxiway M to hold short of taxiway M6. They were stopped facing northbound for about 20 minutes while waiting for a gate and could not see the Citation depart. The Pinnacle crew reported that the taxiway lights on taxiway M were illuminated. They also reported that they were tuned to ground control frequency 121.65 and that the ramp and frequency were congested. Additionally, that they did not see the Citation depart or hear any transmissions to or from the Citation.
A 58-year-old professional pilot with over 11,000 hours of flight time operated N241EP. There were four passengers on board. The pilot was cleared by the tower for takeoff on runway 36L while the pilot was taxiing on parallel taxiway N. He acknowledged the clearance but before reaching runway 36L, he turned right onto parallel taxiway M and proceeded to take off. The tower issued two warnings but the pilot did not acknowledge until after he was airborne. The pilot stated that the Citation had a newly installed avionics package that included an airport diagram display that was active on the Multi-Function Display. As the airplane neared the approach end of 36L, a traffic alert caused the MFD screen to blank. The pilot turned up the floodlights to verify the tower frequency on his paper chart, switched to tower frequency 128.42, and was immediately cleared for takeoff. He did not realize the centerline lights were green until he was near flying speed, so he continued the takeoff and offset to the left of the taxiway immediately after liftoff. Runway centerline lights are white and certain taxiway centerline lights are green. The pilot was in his 13th hour of duty at the time of the incident.
The Memphis Air Traffic Quality Assurance manager stated that there had been a number of previous attempts to commence takeoff from the 150-foot wide taxiway M but that the mistake had always been caught before takeoff. The words "M TO RIGHT" were painted on the right side of the taxiway M2 ramp surface but were not visible to the pilot.
The pilot of N241EP obtained his Air Transport Pilot certificate in 1988. He was type rated in the C525 and five other type aircraft. His total flying time was 11, 942 hours, of which 424 were in the C525. His flying time in the last 90 days was 72 hours, all in the C525. The aircraft, a CJ1 model, was certified for single pilot operation, and the pilot frequently flew the airplane single pilot. Certification and experience for air traffic controllers was not requested.
The MEM weather observation for 1853 was wind 340 at 6 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, sky conditions clear, temperature 59, dew point 43, altimeter 29.98 inches.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
There was no damage reported to either aircraft.
Memphis International Airport serves airline, air taxi and general aviation aircraft. The annual air activity averages 392,000 operations per year. The airport is a hub for FedEx and Pinnacle Airlines. The airport is configured with three parallel north-south runways and one east-west runway. Runways 36L, 36C, and 36R are Category III certified runways and Surface Movement Guidance and Control system (SMGCS) lights and markings are installed.