A USA TODAY review of accidents and incidents in NTSB, FAA and NASA databases found hundreds of cases of pilots trying to take off or land on improper runways since the 1980s.
Among the examples:
*On Jan. 25, 2002, a China Airlines Airbus A340 took off from a taxiway in Anchorage. The pilots averted tragedy by lifting off nearly 1,000 feet sooner than normal. The jet's tires struck a snow bank at the end of the taxiway, but the plane was not damaged.
*On Nov. 22, 1994, two people in a small charter plane were killed when they struck a TWA Boeing MD-80 on a runway at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The NTSB found that the pilots of the small plane had attempted to take off on the wrong runway. The crash prompted changes in the way controllers and pilots communicate about runways.
*On Dec. 23, 1995, a Delta MD-80 took off from the wrong runway at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. "Investigation has revealed a number of wrong runway departures" in Cleveland, an FAA report said. Cleveland has since redesigned that area of the airport.
*In January and March 1989, two airline jets took off from the same closed runway at Houston's William P. Hobby Airport. In both cases the jets struck construction equipment but did not crash.
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Led by several high-profile cases, the number of high-risk runway incidents climbed to 31 in fiscal 2006, up from 29 in 2005 and 28 in 2004.