Runway closure surprises pilot

Aircraft: Piper Seneca. Injuries: None. Location: San Marcos, Texas. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The pilot called the Flight Service Station before departing on a cross-country flight to ask if there were any restrictions along his flight route that he needed to be aware of. None were mentioned.

He arrived at his destination about dusk when the control tower was closed. He listened to the automated ATIS to determine which runway was appropriate for landing. Based on the information obtained from the ATIS, he selected runway 8 for landing. The ATIS recording did not include information about runway 8 being closed. He landed on runway 8.

During the landing roll the airplane collided with construction barriers.

After the accident it was determined that a March 21, 2012, NOTAM was in effect and stated that runway 8/26 was closed due to construction. Investigators determined that this information was not provided or requested during the FSS briefing.

The Airman’s Information Manual states that an FSS is required to advise pilots of pertinent NOTAMs if a standard briefing is requested. It further states that pilots should remind the briefer to advise of NOTAMs if the information is not received in the brief. It is ultimately the pilot’s responsibility to ensure that he is familiar with all relevant NOTAMs. Further, FAA Order JO7210.3X states, in part, that facilities with runway construction must ensure ATIS message content is complete, accurate, and contains the proper information related to runway closures.

The pilot stated that had reflective ribbons and directional flashing lights been on the runway it, could have helped him see the barrier. He also stated that he flew into the same airport about a week after the accident and noted that the runway closure was included on the ATIS recording.

Probable cause: The failure of air traffic control personnel to include the runway closure information on the recorded ATIS information, which the pilot had listened to prior to landing. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to ensure that he was aware of the NOTAM describing the runway closure, which resulted in a landing on the closed runway and subsequent collision with a barrier.

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA229 

This April 2012 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. Tom says

    The easiest way is to ALWAYS check DUATS before every flight because the NOTAMS are there. It’s simple to use and if for some unusual reason the runway closing didn’t appear on DUATS then you have a written record that someone messed up besides the pilot. ALWAYS check DUATS. Forget about calling for a weather briefing on the phone because then you have a “he said she said” situation. DUATS locks in the responsibility.

  2. Randy Coller says

    I inspect airports & train airport inspectors.
    I do pilot safety seminar and teach aviation.

    Two things I’ve learned:
    1. Pilots claim airport managers not issue NOTAMs.
    2. Airport manager’s claim pilots don’t read NOTAMs.

  3. Dennis Reiley says

    “It is the responsibility of the pilot…”, is grossly overused. If the pilot requests information it is not his fault if some information is withheld.

    • BlueStar says

      you know the stock answer, it is always the same…. “it is the sole responsibility of the Pilot”
      I can see this buck being passed back and forth, nonetheless, both parties could have prevented this accident.

      • Tom says

        The hunters departed early,
        They longed for their prey to kill,
        Looking for the prize male animal so surly,
        Truly competitors out for a thrill.

        Suddenly they saw a large deer,
        Both fired for all they were worth,
        Each took credit for the kill we hear,
        At lunch they “passed the buck back and forth”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *