Close Call in Riyadh, Air Atlanta Freighter Aborts Takeoff from Taxiway

A heart-stopping incident occurred on April 22nd, 2024, at King Khalid International Airport (RUH) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. An Air Atlanta Europe Malta Boeing 747 freighter (Reg. 9H-AKF), operating on behalf of Saudia Cargo for flight SV953 bound for Nairobi, Kenya, mistakenly attempted takeoff from a taxiway instead of the designated runway. The incident unfolded as the cargo plane taxied from the cargo apron towards the runway. 


However, instead of continuing onto the proper runway, the crew seemingly veered onto a significantly shorter taxiway designated as "K." This taxiway has a length of approximately 4,880 feet (1,490 meters), considerably shorter than the required runway length for a safe takeoff by a Boeing 747. Despite receiving clearance from air traffic control for takeoff from runway 33R, the crew inexplicably initiated their takeoff roll on taxiway K.  As the aircraft accelerated down the short taxiway, likely reaching a ground speed of around 110 knots (126 mph), the crew fortunately realized their error. They promptly aborted the takeoff, bringing the massive aircraft to a halt with minimal runway remaining.

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Reports indicate the aircraft managed to stop just 100 feet (30 meters) from the end of taxiway K, a distance that could have resulted in a catastrophic accident. Thankfully, the prompt actions of the crew and the available stopping distance on the taxiway prevented a potential disaster. The incident has sparked an investigation by Saudi Arabia's aviation regulatory body, the AIB. The investigation aims to determine the cause of the crew's error and identify any contributing factors. 

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Understanding the root cause will be crucial to preventing similar incidents from occurring in the future. This event highlights the importance of robust safety protocols and crew vigilance in aviation. It serves as a reminder that even seemingly minor mistakes can have serious consequences. The aviation industry will undoubtedly be scrutinizing the investigation's findings to ensure such incidents become even rarer occurrences.

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