FAA continues YVRA incident study

Possible runway incursion in March could result in pilot penalty

— The Federal Aviation Administration still is investigating a March 1 incident at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.

In the incident, an incoming United Express flight came within 300 or 400 feet of a smaller plane on the runway before turning abruptly and climbing to avoid a collision.

SkyWest Airlines operates United Express flights to YVRA through a contract with United Airlines.

The incident was turned over to FAA investigators at the SkyWest Certificate Management Office in Salt Lake City, Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said.

"They interviewed the pilots and also took witness statements and obtained recordings from the Denver air traffic control center," Ruppel said. "As a result of the investigation, they found there was a possible violation, and they've continued this as an enforcement case with the possibility of there being an enforcement action."

Ruppel said one of the pilots might be the target of that action, but he did not know which one.

At the time of the incident, Ruppel said one of the SkyWest pilots told air traffic controllers that he was "on the deck" before the plane had landed. Ruppel said the air traffic controllers in Denver cleared the smaller plane to take off, thinking the United flight was on the ground.

SkyWest spokeswoman Marissa Snow said she couldn't comment because the FAA is investigating.

The incident probably would be considered a runway incursion and not a near miss, which occurs when the planes are in the air, regional FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said. Runway incursions are classified from "A" to "D," with "A" being the most severe, he said.

In the first three quarters of fiscal year 2008, 641 runway incursions were reported nationally, FAA data show. Fifty-five of those occurred in the northwest mountain region, which includes Colorado.

Those numbers have jumped compared with the full fiscal year 2007, in which 370 runway incursions were reported nationally, with 31 occurring in the region.

Fergus said runway incursions could result in a variety of penalties. He could not comment about the specifics of the YVRA incident.

"It all depends upon was this negligent, was it an honest mistake, is there a good track record for this pilot - it just really varies," Fergus said. "All I can say is one sanction does not fit all with runway incursions."

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234

or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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