Last updated: 09:09 PM ET, Sun September 20 2015

Qatar Airways Jet Strikes Runway Lights at Takeoff, Sustains 'Substantial' Damage

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | September 20, 2015

Qatar Airways Jet Strikes Runway Lights at Takeoff, Sustains 'Substantial' Damage

A computer miscalculation may be the reason a Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300 struck runway lights last week while taking off from Miami, Doha News reported.

With the pilots potentially unaware of the impact, the 13.5-hour flight to Doha, Qatar proceeded routinely, despite what the initial Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) report called “substantial” damage to the underbelly of the aircraft.

The FAA stated Flight QTR778 impacted “approach lighting system runway lights,”

Described by Doha News as a “series of masts” around 20 feet high, located about 200 feet beyond the edge of the runway.

Doha News pointed out that normally, flights pass over these lights at an altitude of several hundred feet, but QTR778 was low enough for impact.

A notice to airmen (NOTAM) published by Miami International Airport states that the approach lighting system on that runway is currently out of service and won’t be up and running for a month. This suggests, “that it is seriously damaged,” Doha News said.

Pilots calculate a minimum runway length required for takeoff on all flights, taking into account environmental conditions and the airplane’s weight. The Qatar Airways flight entered the runway at an intersection that subtracted close to a mile of takeoff length after consulting the “electronic flight bag system,” which generates this data automatically, according to Doha News.

The Qatar news outlet stated it is “unclear why this system failed,” but the result was Flight QTR 778 “did become airborne substantially later than would have been expected under normal circumstances.”

Aviation Herald reports communication between Miami air traffic control and the flight crew was “routine” and Doha News said it isn’t yet known whether the pilots knew the 777 had hit the lights or sustained damage.

Despite the safe trip, the “substantial” underside damage has compelled the FAA to label this an “accident.”

According to airliner tracking app Flightradar, this particular aircraft has not flown since Wednesday, which “suggests that the aircraft has been out of service,” Doha News said. 

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