United Express 4049 /Operated by Silver Airways/ Lands at Wrong Airport
United Express 4049 (A Saab 340 TurboProp, operated by Silver Airways) typically operates from Washington Dulles International (IAD) to Morgantown, West Virginia (MGW) and onward to its final destination of the night, Clarksburg, West Virginia (CKB) without problem.
On August 7, 2012, the Saab 340 turbo-prop made the flight from Washington Dulles International (IAD) to Morgantown Municipal Airport (MGW) safely. After dropping a few passengers off, the flight took-off for the final segment of the night from Morgantown Municipal Airport (MGW).
The scheduled flight-time to North Central West Virginia Airport in Clarksburg (CKB) is scheduled to be 25 minutes.
However, instead of landing as anticipated at North Central West Virginia Airport in Clarksburg (CKB), the Saab 340 landed in Fairmont, West Virginia. Passengers were taken onto Clarksburg by taxi’s.
Both airports have a runways with similar headings, runway 05/23 at Fairmont, whereas Clarksburg has runway 03/21. This would not be the first time a commercial airliner has landed at the wrong airport and the FAA has launched an investigation.
Gulfstream International Airlines was rebranded to Silver Airways on December 15, 2011, and has taken delivery of several Saab 340 Turbo-Props in the first half of 2012 which it is using to provide essential air service routes such as this one.
Silver Airways (3M) was new on this route, having started on August 2nd 2012. While the flight is sold by United and marketed as United Express, it is operated by a Silver Airways Saab 340.
While the landing was safe, this mishap easily could have resulted in an accident if more runway was required.
Runway 05/23 at Fairmont is 3194 feet long and only has a width of 75 feet.
The expected runway at Clarksburg, 03/21, is significantly longer at 7000 feet with a width of 150.
According to United Airlines, the Saab 340 operating this route seats 34 passengers in United Economy, operates at speeds of up to 331 mph in cruise, and is powered by Two General Electric CT79B turboprops. The wingspan, 70 feet, 4 inches.
Had the Saab 340 that night needed the additional runway, the flight could have been met with catastrophe.
Sadly, we must not look far into the history books to find the Comair 5191 with its wrong runway take-off. Comair 5191, a 50 seat CRJ100, was making a morning flight from Lexington Bluegrass Airport to Atlanta as a Delta Connection carrier on behalf of Delta.
The CRJ100 was assigned runway 22 for take-off, a runway of 7,003 feet similar to the expected runway in Clarksburg. The Comair CRJ accidently turned onto runway 26, only 3,500 feet. The pilot called for rotation, but the doomed aircraft sped off the end of the runway before it could lift off.
Thankfully the the outcome of United Express 4049 was a positive one. While we could easily speculate as to why it landed at the wrong airfield, we’ll leave that up to the FAA.