Pilot intentionally lands on closed runway

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: 3 Minor. Location: Platinum, Alaska. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: Several people saw the Cherokee fly over the field and line up to land on the closed runway.

The newer runway is lighted and had been in operation for at least two years. The old runway had been repurposed and remarked as a taxiway. In addition, parts of the old runway were marked with an X, an indication of a closure.

The pilot reported that he used the airplane’s radio to activate the runway lights, and flew over the airport and saw the windsock, but did not see the runway lights. He said the landing roll was smooth until the airplane came to a sudden stop when it collided with a berm where a portion of the old runway had been changed to an elevated taxiway.

The passenger seated on the left side of the airplane behind the pilot said she was familiar with the airport, and saw the lights of the lighted runway as they flew over. She said she wondered why he was landing on the old runway, but did not say anything to the pilot.

Probable cause: The pilot’s misidentification of the airport’s active runway, resulting in an off-runway landing and collision with a ditch/berm.

NTSB Identification: ANC11LA008

This January 2011 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.


  1. says

    Wow this is a head-scratcher. I can’t image what this guy was thinking. I’m usually a ‘by the grace there go I’ kind of a guy, but I’m having trouble seeing what led this pilot to land at night on a closed runway.
    This is like plan continuation bias on steroids.

  2. Vaughn S. Price says

    In all cases I fly over an Airport and find active, tee, sock then brake 45 degrees outbound descending to pattern altitude, make a 180 degree turn to 45 degree entry leg, turn downwind parallel to the active runway turn base no further than 1 mile from threshold for a close in final, and land on 1st third of runway, even in a Douglas DC-3

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