NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate a pilot's claims the runway lights at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport did not work properly.
Passengers aboard the flight into Newport News Saturday night say they were afraid when the pilot announced the runway lights were not working properly during a landing. Both the airline and the airport say they are not to blame.
Kathleen Bergen with the FAA told WAVY.com the FAA was now looking into the matter.
US Airways Express flight #3668 from Charlotte to Newport News landed safely, but passengers were left wondering what happened.
"My heart was racing and I didn't know what was going on," passenger Marianne Harris said.
Just before Harris thought the plane was about to touch down, it abruptly ascended back into the air. Once they were at a safe height, she says the pilot explained the situation over the loudspeaker.
"The pilot came on and told us that they could not reach anybody at the airport and that the lights were not on on the runway," Harris said.
An airport spokesperson says the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport installed LED lights on the runway six months ago in an effort to be more efficient. The lights are always on from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., while someone is manning the air traffic control tower.
After 11 p.m., the Norfolk tower controls flights into Newport News and the LED lights go out. Pilots can turn the lights back on from the cockpit, using a remote radio device. But in Harris' case, the pilot claimed he could not get the lights to work.
When the pilot determined it was not safe to land, the plane did a loop around the airport, while the pilot spoke to air traffic control in Norfolk about the problem. Norfolk was able to contact airport police in Newport News, who then used the same device the pilot is supposed to have, to turn the lights on.
The plane looped back around and landed safely, but Harris and other passengers left upset.
"I would have liked for somebody to meet the plane and explain, to not just me, but to all the passengers, what happened," Harris said.
An airport spokesperson says the lights did not malfunction and had been working properly the entire time. The spokesperson added that flights before and after the flight in question activated the lights without incident.
Michelle Mohr, a spokesperson for US Airways, says the pilot knew to activate the lights and communicate with the Norfolk tower after 11 p.m. Mohr says US Airways was in contact with the airport about the problem. She says the pilot followed standard procedure in coming around to land a second time.
Monday night, a spokesperson for the FAA said there was no incident report filed, and there cannot be if the situation did not rise to the level of an incident, based on the following FAA definition: "An occurrence involving one or more aircraft in which a hazard or a potential hazard to safety is involved but not classified as an accident due to the degree of injury and/or extent of damage."
It is unclear at this time if an incident report was filed.
An airport spokeswoman says the passengers were never in any danger.
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