Columbia Regional Airport intersection causes safety concern

Two incidents of planes’ gears leaving the pavement of the runway have occurred since the beginning of April.

Columbia Regional Airport reopened early Tuesday morning after a departing flight got stuck in a grassy area, which halted all air traffic May 11 in the afternoon, according to a City of Columbia press release. American Airlines Flight 3621 was departing for the Dallas area at 1:55 p.m. when one of its rear landing gears went off the the taxiway’s paved portion, the release stated.

An American Airlines spokesperson said the flight had 62 passengers and a crew of four.

“No injuries were reported and all passengers have deplaned and are safely in the terminal,” they said in an email. “Maintenance is en route to evaluate the aircraft and we are working to re-accommodate customers on other flights to their final destinations.”

Columbia Regional Airport management decided to close the airport to all air traffic until the plane could be removed by maintenance workers, according to the release. The workers were able to remove the plane at approximately 4 a.m. May 12. The airport reopened to commercial and general aviation traffic between 5 and 6 a.m. today, the release stated.

The incident occurred on the same intersection as a similar incident from last month, where departing American Airlines Flight 3624’s rear landing gear also left the pavement of the runway, according to a City of Columbia press release.

The intersection has been identified as a “hotspot” for incidents similar to these for some time, said Steve Sapp, Columbia Public Works public information specialist.

“The sharp angle of the intersection requires pilots to make a 120-degree turn, which sometimes leads to incidents like this,” Sapp said.

MU freshman Michael Stephenson uses the airport when returning home to Chicago for breaks. Stephenson said he is put off by the recent incidents.

“It makes me feel concerned that this could happen at such a small airport,” Stephenson said. “However, it’s not the worst type of accident involving a plane that could possibly happen.”

Last month the Columbia Regional Airport received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the purpose of infrastructure improvements. Sapp said the first project the airport will tackle with the money will be improving the problematic intersection.

Sapp said Public Works hopes to begin the project early this summer and finish by the end of the year. However, Sapp said the current intersection does not present any major safety concerns.

“For several years the (Federal Aviation Administration) has told us we have a problem with that intersection, and now with the grant we can finally make changes,” Sapp said.

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