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Three Planes With 406 Passengers Onboard Landed While a Ladder Was in the Middle of the Runway

Three Planes With 406 Passengers Onboard Landed While a Ladder Was in the Middle of the Runway

Three passenger planes with a total of 406 passengers and 20 crew members onboard landed at Birmingham International Airport (BHX) in England even though a large, bright yellow step ladder had been abandoned in the middle of the runway after falling off the back of a maintenance vehicle.

The step ladder remained on the runway for 37 minutes before finally being spotted by the pilots of the third plane to land and then being removed by ground workers.

Markus Mainka /

Accident investigators concluded that had one of the planes hit the ladder that there was a high risk of an “explosive tyre burst” which would have resulted in “high energy fragments” hitting the aircraft. Vulnerable hydraulic and electrical systems could also have been hit and there was a risk of a nose gear collapse along with the engines ingesting debris.

Engineers had been conducting routine maintenance on the approach lights to Runway 33 at Birmingham airport on the night of September 8, 2020, and once finished drove along the runway back to the airport building. They didn’t realise, however, that a ladder they had been using had fallen out the back of their pickup truck and was now resting just off the centre line in the touchdown zone of the runway.

The first plane to land was a Ryanair operated Boeing 737 and although the pilots reported that something might have been on the runway they also said they couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t just paint markings on the runway.

Photo Credit: AAIB
Photo Credit: AAIB

The pilots of a Jet2 plane also reported the same thing but the pilots of a TUI operated 737 decided to go ahead and land on the same runway. It was the pilots of this plane that finally reported to air traffic control that what appeared to be a ladder had been left on the runway.

The runway was then immediately closed and a fourth plane was forced to circle around while a full inspection was carried out.

An accident investigation report found that the ladder had been strapped to the back of the pickup truck with a piece of bungee that had subsequently come loose. Based on the information they had available at the time, the pilots of the TUI aircraft were cleared of wrongdoing as the previous reports had not been significant and it was believed the ladder was actually just paint markings.

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