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American Eagle pilot diverts after unable to activate runway lights

American Eagle Flight 2536 was scheduled to fly about 125 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Wichita Falls, Texas, on Sunday night. The plane left nearly a half-hour late, and when it got to Wichita Falls, the pilot told passengers that the runway lights were turned off and there was nobody at the airport to turn them on. Wichita Falls said pilots can operate the lights using a specific frequency on their radio system, but the Eagle pilot had the wrong frequency. ( More...

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Chris Bryant 5
There are more than a "handful" of airport that use PCL. Maybe not many that handle commercial traffic, but lots of GA airports.
preacher1 2
There is still a whole lot more here than is being told. Last I heard, Sheppard had a
24 hr tower and they brought up lights on one runway. Even their shortest one was 5 grand, plenty of room for an RJ of some type. I'm like te poster below, pilot didn't do his homework and then probably got flustered. Time to go back to the SIM.
Earl Smith 2
Maybe that's part 91 that doesn't require lights.
i5xswipe 2
I haven't reviewed the airport, but the Pilot Controlled lighting may be on a discrete frequency, other then CTAF. This is fairly uncommon, but could and does create confusion.
apetro2 2
In defense of the American Eagle pilot, I seriously doubt this pilot had the wrong frequency. I had this happen to me before at my home field that also uses PCL. There is no doubt I was using the correct frequency. I called flight service to confirm there were no NOTAMs for the lights being out. I tried three different radios including a handheld radio, but could not get the lights to turn on. My local field is a towered field, but the tower was closed. If found out later, from one of the controllers, that the PCL function has to be activated manually when the controllers leave for the evening. Apparently, someone forgot to turn on the PCL that night. It's conceivable that this happened here too. The city of Wichita Falls may not want admit it as it is easier to blame this on pilot error.
preacher1 1
I'm still hard pressed to figure out why Sheppard AFB, with the biggest training base in the U.S., has less than a 24 hour tower. I can agree with the PCL not being activated but why is it dark in the 1st place?
After reading the article, it may lead one to believe that American Eagle is now flying single pilot operations.
spatr 4
If you believe he media, there is only 1 pilot and a copilot!
Scott Mathews 1
I'm from Wichita Falls. I can just imagine how angry those passengers were to find themselves back at DFW at midnight, probably scrambling to rent cars. (Would Eagle have given them free hotels under the circumstances?) Really, given the two-hour drive time to DFW, the regular scheduled van services, and the time needed to make connections, it saves little time, if any, to fly SPS-DFW rather than driving.
preacher1 2
Scott, is Sheppard running on a reduced schedule now or what? I can't envision dark runways out there. Regarding the drive, you are correct. I haven't driven it in several years but the last time I did the roads were excellent. Given Teas penchant for road building, they are probably even better now. I would went after the rental car. I did one years ago from DAL to LIT.
ed cifelli 1
They left DFW and flew to WF, since the pilot elected to return to DFW because he couldn't get the lights lit, are the passengers going to be reimbursed for the (no)joy ride? I know I would be slightly upset if I took a plane to point B and then discovered that I was landing at my point of departure.
preacher1 1
There has either got to be more to this story or else Eagle has a pilot vacancy
spatr 2
Considering aviation reporting at most major news outlet is done by nitwits, I'm sure there's more to the story. I used to bring the SF340 into SPS routinely, it wasn't bad. We used to land 17 when military ops were going and after the tower closed it was pilots choice. 15R didn't have an approach we could use so it was the ILS 15C if needed. 17 was VFR only, maybe this guy didn't/could'nt get the 17 lights on and thought he couldn't land on the military side when the tower was closed.
preacher1 1
To tell you the truth, they must have really cut back on mission. That used to be a 24 hr tower back in the day.
Lack of communication between pilot and atc; Also pilot did not do his homework ( check for the correct frecuency ).
Jeff Lawson 0
Airfield turns off lights before last airliner arrives --
linbb 2
That is the normal way as they are on a timer and then can be activated by the pilot when needed. Its a green way to cut costs at an airport that is not used very often at night.
mskierki 1
Per the article:
"Another runway was lit, but the pilot declined to land on that one."

From what I can see in the airport information only one runway 33L/15R is lit by PCL.

Looks like everything was working as intended, the PIC was just not familiar enough with the airport to land. The runways are more or less parallel so it isn't like they needed to decline due to wind direction.
Ric Wernicke 2
Another runway was lit. It was at DFW.
buzburbank 0
How was the doctor's wife able to send him a text message while she was in flight? Even if the aircraft was equipped with wi-fi (it was an American Eagle regional jet), would the wi-fi have not been disabled while circling below 10,000 feet?
Jeff Lawson 1
If you look at the tracklog data, you'll see they were circling at 6,000 feet and were down a little lower during the approach attempt.

You can occasionally get cellphone data and text messages at altitudes that low, though the communications are usually unreliable.
preacher1 1
What really makes no sense other than just calk it to the pilot, every airport has nighttime instructions in their overview for lights if they don't stay on at night. I don't know why WF maintains a separate airport with Shepard close by. They have a civilian side as well or at least used to.
preacher1 1
FlightAware shows that Shepard and WF muni are together. I guess Shepard is now relegated to daytime training?
buzburbank 1
Maybe I was being a bit too tongue-in-cheek. I tend to agree that the technology would probably have worked. I was more amused at the fact that the passenger was inadvertently outed as being a flagrant violator of the airline's rules and FAA regs on the use of mobile devices in flight. :)
A cell phone tower has a range of 10 miles or more.
preacher1 0
Where in this story did you see anything about this? I just re-read it to make sure it's not there and I didn't see it.
buzburbank 2
It is in the article linked by Jeff Lawson, 6th paragraph.

"Kamath said he called his wife’s cell phone, then received a text message from her saying the runway lights were off and the plane was circling the airport."
Scott Mathews 2
According to the Wichita Falls Times-Record News article, the doctor in question compared this incident to the recent Germanwings tragedy. Excuse me?
preacher1 4
He's a doctor. He knows what he is talking about. I remember years ago, there was a local hearing on the Rock Island RR in Western AR and the talk turned to speed. A local vet that lived close to the tracks said he heard one come by his house wide open. That much was true but what he did not know was that engineer had traction motors were cut out and he was spinning up his air compressors to maintain/build train line pressure. He had ran his pressure down on slow track. Needless to say, the vet got made a fool of. He may have been the world's best vet but he didn't know squat about railroading, just as this Dr. probably didn't know anything about flying.
preacher1 1
10-4, I didn't read that link. tks
John Andrew 0
On FlightAware: Planned: 295 sm Flown: 696 sm I wonder what the cost of the extra fuel was?
Jeff Lawson 0
Flight track --
Sounds like that heavy metal pilot needs to get out and fly some GA planes every once in a while.
A handful???

"There are a handful of airports out there that have radio-frequency-activated runway lights, this is one of them," said Jarek Beem, a spokesman for ExpressJet
Earl Smith 0
What regulation requires runway lights? I don't think there is one.
Duarte Gomes 2
That is too bad if there is no regulation prohibiting the use of a non-illuminated runway at night, even if it has an ILS, but that is just my opinion.
preacher1 1
Regulation and ILS or not. I would not like the idea of a DARK landing. My faith is not that strong. I guess t could be done but that would be pucker city.
mtpiper 2
121.590 specifies operating to airports certificated under FAR 139.
FAR 139.311(c) specifies lighting requirements when the airport is open at night (runway lighting).
Having been an aircraft dispatcher in a former life, the circumstances would have to be extraordinary to warrant attempting to land on a dark runway (it's the only airport within fuel range after alternates went below mins unforecasted, severe mechanical problem, etc.).
Like preacher1 said...serious pucker factor there.
A little off topic (and dating myself!), but we used to have a flight that went from A to B to C, but B didn't have a wx observation until shortly before our arrival. We would dispatch A to C, then when we got the wx obs, we would "divert" the flight to B, then send a new release for B to C. Good times!
Earl Smith 1
Maybe that's part 91

[This poster has been suspended.]

Chart 10-9A. All day, every day, except that night!!!
Scott Duncan 0
preacher1 -1
I wonder why they aren't using Sheppard AFB KSPS. I thought they had a civilian side.
Wichita Falls Air Terminal is located at the north east side of the airfield. Sheppard AFB is located at the south side of the airfield. I was stationed at Sheppard in 1962'63.
john maxfield -1
And, Why is this News?
preacher1 1
Nothing else to report on from Northwest Texas late at night
Scott Mathews 1
Nor in the middle of the day (says the native)... :-)
preacher1 0
Scott: what is Sheppard doing; are they cutting back or what. With 3 runways out there I can't envision them being dark.
preacher1 0
And the fact that a doctor and his wife were involved


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