A misunderstanding caused a truck of the airport fire department to accidentally drive onto a runway where an Airbus A320 was departing.
The work carried out by airport fire department employees is impressive. When the men and women at the airport are alerted, they are ready to respond within moments and know how to rescue people from a wide range of different hazards. What a sensitive environment an airport can be for firefighters is highlighted by an incident that occurred at Zurich Airport last year.
It all started with a safety landing of an Easyjet Airbus A319. The plane returned to Zurich shortly after take-off due to a landing gear problem. After the aircraft touched down on runway 16 and came to a standstill, several rescue vehicles positioned themselves around the aircraft. After no damage was detected on the aircraft, the vehicles began to retreat.
One of the fire engines with the call sign Florian 223 attempted to drive and turn around on the runway in front of the Airbus. Afterwards, it was planned to return to the taxiway where the vehicles had originally hit the runway. However, a misunderstanding between the driver and the vehicle crew caused the vehicle not to turn.
Instead, the truck rolled towards the point where runway 16 intersects with runway 10. At that time, an Airbus A320 from Edelweiss was taking off from there. Although the driver was confused, he kept driving. Because the other officer was busy taking off his respiratory protection equipment, he did not notice the mishap. After a ground radar system from air traffic control sounded an alarm, an air traffic controller warned the firefighters.
«Immediately» before the safety area of the crossing railway was marked, the truck then came to a halt, writes the Swiss investigative agency Sust in its report, which classifies the event as a «serious incident». The Airbus A320 passed the crossing point a few seconds later at a height of about 10 metres. After turning in the correct direction, the fire-fighting vehicle rolled over the safety area of Runway 10 for a short time and then drove back to its station without further incident.
Sust believes the reasons for the incident were a misunderstanding on the part of the vehicle crew and that «the crew did not pay sufficient attention to orientation on the runway system». In this respect, the authority says that a «low level of training» of the fire-fighting vehicle crews with regard to driving on the runway systems contributed to the incident.
The investigators criticize that the emergency services of the Zurich airport fire department have too little opportunity to train driving on the runways. According to the report, the airport fire department has worked through the incident and improved previous procedures. In the future, it will also be paying more attention to the issue in training and refresher courses.