Guide Device was Off in Cleveland When Jet Slid Off Runway

The Guideslope device, which emits a signal that guides pilots to the runway, wasn't working because it was covered by the snow.


Because of a reporter's error, stories on Page One Feb. 20 and in Tuesday's Metro section about a Feb. 18 accident involving a Delta Air Lines plane at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport referred to a runway navigation device as a guideslope. It is a glideslope.

A Delta Air Lines flight rushed toward a Cleveland runway in the midst of white-out conditions and without the aid of a guidance device that helps pilots land, airport officials said Monday.

Those issues, along with a shortened, sloping runway, may have contributed to the 70-passenger commuter jet skidding off the runway Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The Guideslope device, which emits a signal that guides pilots to the runway, wasn't working because it was covered by the snow, Airport Commissioner Fred Szabo said Monday.

Another device at the end of the roughly 6,000-foot runway that keeps the plane centered was functioning - until it was run over by the jet.

"The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will determine what happened, and if the nonfunctioning navigational aid contributed to the problem," Szabo said.

Investigators will also want to know where the plane touched down, Szabo said. But he said it was snowing so hard that the people in the control tower could not say where it landed.

"That information is crucial to determining what happened," Szabo said

Neither the NTSB nor the FAA could be reached for comment on Monday's Presidents Day holiday.

Szabo said runway 10-28, the airport's shortest runway, was being used for landings while the two longer runways were being cleared. He said the runway conditions, while not perfect, were considered acceptable for landing at the time of the crash.

However, passengers on board Delta Flight 6448 reported not being able to see the runway as the plane landed Sunday afternoon, Szabo said.

The Embraer 170 jet operated by Shuttle America for Delta Air Lines was coming in for a landing Sunday from Atlanta when it hit the runway and traveled all the way to the end, where it crashed into the working navigational aid. The jet then went about 150 feet down an embankment and through a fence.

When the craft came to rest, the jet's nose was sticking out onto West Hangar Road near the NASA Glenn Research Center.

No one was injured, but the airport was closed for almost 90 minutes as the passengers were taken off the plane.

Veteran pilot Jonathan Regas, of Reno, Nev., said the runway itself may have been a problem. The shortened runway slopes down - starting about 29 feet higher than when it ends.

That pitch combined with the heavy snow and the nonfunctioning navigational guide made the landing difficult, said Regas, a 20-year commercial airline pilot and former flight instructor.

"It's a question that should be raised," Regas said.

Szabo said he was not even aware of the pitch difference, but believed it was not enough to be of consequence.

Brad Burdette, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association local union at Hopkins, said planes had been landing on the runway all day with no problems.

Sunday's incident was the first time a jet slid off a runway at Hopkins since January 2003, when a Continental Express Embraer 145 overran a different runway at the airport under similar weather conditions. None of the 51 on board that flight were injured.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: , 216-999-4890

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