The crew of a FedEx 757 freighter landed on the wrong runway. And the tower controller didn’t realize what happened until after the landing.
The NTSB recently released its preliminary report on this incident, which took place on the 8th of June. It involves flight FX-1170, which FedEx appears to be performing four times per week. It is a very short flight, from Fort Worth Alliance Airport (KAFW), Texas, to Tulsa International (KTUL) in Oklahoma, USA.
Only the two pilots were on board the incident flight. The FedEx 757 crew departed from Fort Worth using runway 16L and climbed to FL310 for their short cruise. Typically, this flight lasts about 40-45 minutes. And like many cargo flights, it takes place in the small hours of the morning, departing Fort Worth at 3:30 am.
The flight was the last leg of the third night of a five-night trip for the crew. It was essentially uneventful, all the way to the approach. The FedEx 757 crew expected vectors to runway 18L in Tulsa. As they descended below 10,000 feet, the crew broke through the clouds and could see the airport beacon. ATC cleared the flight for a visual approach AND landing at 18L. Approach and tower frequencies were combined at this airport, at that time.
FedEx 757 – Correct Readback, Wrong Runway
The First Officer read back the clearance correctly. Then the Captain of the FedEx 757 asked the First Officer to set an extended runway centerline on their flight management system. Minutes later, the aircraft landed safely – on runway 18R. We have seen similar errors, involving two runways at a relatively short distance from each other. But Tulsa’s 18L and 18R are about a mile (1.6 km) apart.
The tower controller, sitting between the two runways, did not notice that the FedEx 757 landed on the wrong runway. After their landing, the FedEx crew exited the runway and then notified the controller about what happened. The traffic volume at that time was light.
The aircraft, a 757-236 with registration N94FD, remained in regular service after the incident. This 757 is thirty-one years old, first entering service in 1991, flying passengers. FedEx was the aircraft’s first operator after its cargo conversion, in 2010. The airline calls it Ashlynn.
We recently saw another aircraft landing on the wrong runway, here. But unlike what happened with the FedEx 757, the runway that aircraft (United 737-9) landed on a runway close to the intended one. The NTSB’s investigation of the FedEx incident is ongoing.