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The crew of an Airbus A320neo started their takeoff roll on a taxiway in Chicago O’Hare. They then stopped, but is this becoming a trend?

This incident happened in the early hours of Wednesday, the 1st of June. It involved a Viva Aerobus crew, about to start flight VB-187. It would go from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (KORD) in the United States to Mexico City International (MMMX) in Mexico. This is a daily service, normally departing Chicago just before midnight. On this occasion, it was about half an hour late. But some of this delay had to do with the incident.

INCIDENT: A320neo Attempts Takeoff On Chicago Taxiway!

The incident aircraft, with registration XA-VIM. Photo: Oliver Holzbauer, CC BY-SA 2.0

The A320neo crew pushed back from gate M13 in Chicago O’Hare, exited the ramp and were headed for runway 22L via taxiway V. O’Hare is a rather busy airport, with no fewer than eight runways. But on this occasion, the Viva Aerobus crew had a relatively short distance to travel. The crew should have turned ninety degrees to the right at the end of taxiway V. Runway 22L would then be straight ahead, at a 45-degree angle to the aircraft.

 

A320neo Lines Up With Chicago Taxiway

But the tower controller in Chicago cleared the crew of the A320neo to line up and wait, when they were further back on the taxiway, some distance from the runway. The controller followed this instruction with a takeoff clearance. However, the Viva Aerobus crew made their 90-degree at the end of taxiway V, into a 180-degree turn, joining taxiway N.

INCIDENT: A320neo Attempts Takeoff On Chicago Taxiway!

The aircraft’s route, from the gate to the first takeoff attempt, on taxiway N. The intended runway (22L) is indicated by the right-most yellow arrow.

Believing that they were now on the runway AND with a takeoff clearance, the Viva Aerobus crew commenced their takeoff roll. Fortunately, the controller very quickly spotted what was happening, and instructed the aircraft to STOP, multiple times. The Viva Aerobus crew acknowledged and stopped very quickly.

Fortunately, this was a very low-speed event. Different flight tracking sites vary in their estimates. Flightradar24 indicates that the A320 got no faster than 28 knots (ground speed) on the Chicago taxiway. Other sites show lower speeds. In any case, the Viva Aerobus crew stopped about 200 metres (660 feet) after beginning their takeoff roll.

 

Not Parallel To The Runway!

The A320neo crew then turned right and right again (180 degrees) back to taxiway V, leaving Chicago using runway 22L, as planned. They took off just 6-7 minutes after pushing the throttles forward on the taxiway. The flight arrived at its destination uneventfully, and on time. It is not clear at this time if there is an investigation into the incident.

We have recently seen some taxiway takeoff rolls, that have some similarities to this one. A previous event took place in Amsterdam, while another one a few months before was in Newark. But what makes the Chicago incident more unusual is that the taxiway the A320neo crew lined up with, is not parallel with their intended runway. It was about sixty degrees off their runway heading, roughly parallel with runway 28R.

Like other such events, this incident happened at night. The taxiway and runway lights, as well as markings and signs on the ground, will likely come under scrutiny. However, as with other such incidents, the fact that the flight continued on, means that investigators will not have useful data from the cockpit voice recorder (CVR). This has been a factor that investigators of previous incidents have highlighted.

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