Taxiway Or Runway
To be fair, Taxiway Tango at Seattle/Tacoma International Airport must look awfully good to a pilot on final. It's 9,500 feet long, 100 feet wide and runs parallel with SeaTac's two actual runways. And when the sun glares off the pavement wet from Seattle's not infrequent showers, it's tough to see the big yellow Xs that attempt to warn pilots that it's not really a runway. In fact, eight airline crews have been fooled in four years and three have actually landed on the taxiway, including the Air Canada Jazz flight we told you about a year and a half ago. After that incident, the airport painted the Xs, put daytime flashing lights at the end of the runways and issued notices to pilots. Then, on Jan. 30 of this year, a Southwest crew lined up for the taxiway and didn't realize the error until they were a few seconds from landing and had to go around. Now, various levels of authority are trying to put an end to the embarrassing and potentially dangerous faux pas. A task force has been formed to study the issue. They've flown the approach after having the fire department wet down the end of the taxiway to simulate the conditions when rain showers are followed by sunshine. The NTSB has recommended that a serpentine line be painted the length of the taxiway to deter landings and the task force is evaluating that idea. In the meantime, the sure way to make sure the wheels hit the right patch of pavement may be to fly an ILS approach to SeaTac from the north, regardless of the weather. All the mistakes have occurred during visual approaches.