On October 31, 2000, at 2317 Taipei local time3 (1517 UTC), Singapore Airlines flight SQ006, a Boeing 747-400 aircraft, bearing Singapore registration 9V-SPK, struck barriers and construction equipment during takeoff on Runway 05R, a portion of which had been closed for maintenance, at CKS Airport.
Heavy rain, reduced visibility, and strong winds associated with typhoon “Xangsane” prevailed at the time of the accident.
Singapore Airlines flight SQ006 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport (TPE), in Taoyuan, Taiwan, ROC, to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), in Los Angeles, California, USA. SQ006 departed with 3 pilots, 17 cabin crewmembers, and 159 passengers aboard. The captain (Crew Member 1, CM-1), relief pilot (Crew Member 3, CM-3) and 23 passengers were not injured; the first officer (Crew Member 2, CM-2), 9 cabin crewmembers and 22 passengers received minor injuries; 4 cabin crewmembers and 35 passengers received serious injuries; 4 cabin crewmembers and 79 passengers perished.
Impact forces and post-accident fire destroyed the aircraft. There were approximately 124,800 kilograms of takeoff fuel in fuel tanks for this flight.
The pilots commenced duty on October 30, 2000, in Singapore and had flown the first sector (Flight SQ006) of the scheduled trip sequence (Singapore to Taipei, Taipei to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Taipei and return to Singapore). All three pilots arrived at the hotel in Taipei around midnight local time of October 30, 2000 and stayed at the hotel until departure for the airport at 2035, the evening of October 31, 2000. The pilots reported for duty at 2153 and completed preflight departure duties, including receiving dispatch documents, and boarded the aircraft, which was parked at Bay B5.
The dispatch documents, including the NOTAM pertaining to partial closure of Runway 05R, were reviewed by the pilots. CM-1 was the “pilot flying” and conducted the taxi and takeoff. According to the transcript of the air traffic control (ATC) Clearance Delivery, at 2257:16, the flight crew received the ATC clearance.
The Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) “Tango” broadcast, in part, that, “…Runway zero five left is in use, Runway zero six for departure only. Expect ILS Runway zero five left, category-two approach, wind zero two zero at three six, gust five two, visibility five hundred meters, Runway zero five left RVR four hundred fifty meters, Runway zero six, five hundred meters with heavy rain, cloud broken two hundred feet, overcast five hundred feet…Caution Taxiway November Sierra has been re-marked, aircraft using November Sierra advise taxi slowly with caution. Taxiway November Papa behind Alpha one and Alpha three closed, Runway zero five right between November four and November five closed, due to work in progress, Taxiway November four and November five still available….”
At 2305:57, after pushback from Bay B5, Singapore Airlines flight SQ006 requested and received clearance from the controller to commence taxiing, “Singapore six, taxi to Runway zero six, via Taxiway, correction, Runway zero five left, via Taxiway Sierra Sierra, West Cross, and November Papa.” According to the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) transcript, at 2306:08, CM-2 stated, “I missed that man, what is it,” after the controller issued the taxi clearance. CM-1 repeated the taxi clearance and for the next few seconds the flight crew discussed the route to Runway 05L.
At 2306:15, CM-2 acknowledged the clearance, “And, November Papa for Runway zero five left, Singapore six.”
At 2307:05, CM-1 stated, “taxi slowly,” followed by, “Ok turn left, skidding right passing heading about zero two four zero now.” Shortly after, the flight crew engaged in conversation about the designated alternate airport because both Kaohsiung and Hong Kong had closed.
At 2309:58, CM-1 stated “a lot of rudder work man here…,” CM-3 responded “cross wind.” At 2310:21, CM-3 stated, “…it is coming in ah, the longer they delay the worse it is lah.” CM-1 responded, “Yah, worse if we are going to get out, if don’t takeoff…I am going to go very slow here because you going get skid.”
At 23:11:49, according to the CVR transcript, CM-1 stated, “The five left also imp..imp..improve already the visibility to five hundred fifty meters.”
At 2312:58, shortly after the aircraft turned onto Taxiway NP, the flight crew was instructed to change to tower frequency. CM-2 contacted the tower and the controller acknowledged the transmission saying, “Singapore six good evening, Taipei tower hold short Runway five left.” CM-2 acknowledged the transmission.
At 23:14:41, as Singapore Airlines flight SQ006 was proceeding along Taxiway NP, CM-2 stated, “Next one is November one,” followed by CM-1 stating, “Ok, second right.” CM-2 replied, “Second right, that’s right.” At 2314:58, CM-1 instructed CM-2 to, “Tell them we are ready….” The controller responded, “Singapore six roger, Runway zero five left, taxi into position and hold.” Shortly thereafter, the controller transmitted, “Singapore six, Runway zero five left, wind zero two zero at two eight gust to five zero, cleared for takeoff.” CM-2 acknowledged the transmission. According to the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) readout, the aircraft was approaching the southwestern end of Taxiway NP at the time the controller issued the takeoff clearance.
At 2315:48, the flight crew completed the before takeoff checklist. This was followed 2 seconds later by CM-2 saying, “OK green lights are here.” CM-1 responded, “It going to be very slippery, I am going to slow down a bit, slow turn here.” According to data from the FDR, the aircraft turned right from Taxiway NP onto Taxiway N1, and made a continuous right turn onto Runway 05R.
At 2316:07, the CVR recorded CM-2 saying, “and the PVD8 hasn’t lined up ah.” CM-1 responded, “Yeah we gotta line up first,” followed by CM-3 saying, “we need forty five degrees.” At 2316:23, CM-1 stated, “not on yet er PVD huh never mind we can see the runway, not so bad. OK, I am going to put it to high first. OK ready er, so zero one zero is from the left lah OK.” According to the CVR transcript, CM-2 responded, “OK,” followed by the sound of the windshield wipers going to high speed. At 2316:44, the CVR recorded the sound of engine noise increasing, followed 11 seconds later by both CM-2 and CM-3 calling “eighty knots.”
At 2317:16, CM-1 stated, “(explicative) something there,” followed one second later by the first sound of impact. Approximately 33 seconds after the takeoff roll commenced, the aircraft collided with several concrete “jersey” barriers, 2 excavators, 2 vibrating rollers, a bulldozer, an air compressor cart, and a pile of metal reinforcement bars on Runway 05R, between Taxiways N4 and N5. The FDR recorded airspeed about 158 knots and ground speed about 131 knots at the end of the recording.
- At the time of the accident, heavy rain and strong winds from typhoon “Xangsane” prevailed. At 2312:02 Taipei local time, the flight crewmembers of SQ006 received Runway Visual Range (RVR) 450 meters on Runway 05L from Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) “Uniform”. At 2315:22 Taipei local time, they received wind direction 020 degrees with a magnitude of 28 knots, gusting to 50 knots, together with the takeoff clearance issued by the local controller.
- On August 31, 2000, CAA of ROC issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) A0606 indicating that a portion of the Runway 05R between Taxiway N4 and N5 was closed due to work in progress from September 13 to November 22, 2000. The flight crew of SQ006 was aware of the fact that a portion of Runway 05R was closed, and that Runway 05R was only available for taxi.
- The aircraft did not completely pass the Runway 05R threshold marking area and continue to taxi towards Runway 05L for the scheduled takeoff. Instead, it entered Runway 05R and CM-1 commenced the takeoff roll. CM-2 and CM-3 did not question CM-1’s decision to take off.
- The flight crew did not review the taxi route in a manner sufficient to ensure they all understood that the route to Runway 05L included the need for the aircraft to pass Runway 05R, before taxiing onto Runway 05L.
- The flight crew had CKS Airport charts available when taxing from the parking bay to the departure runway; however, when the aircraft was turning from Taxiway NP to Taxiway N1 and continued turning onto Runway 05R, none of the flight crewmembers verified the taxi route. As shown on the Jeppesen “20-9” CKS Airport chart, the taxi route to Runway 05L required that the aircraft make a 90-degree right turn from Taxiway NP and then taxi straight ahead on Taxiway N1, rather than making a continuous 180-degree turn onto Runway 05R. Further, none of the flight crewmembers confirmed orally which runway they had entered.
- CM-1’s expectation that he was approaching the departure runway coupled with the saliency of the lights leading onto Runway 05R resulted in CM-1 allocating most of his attention to these centerline lights. He followed the green taxiway centerline lights and taxied onto Runway 05R.
- The moderate time pressure to take off before the inbound typhoon closed in around CKS Airport, and the condition of taking off in a strong crosswind, low visibility, and slippery runway subtly influenced the flight crew’s decision-making ability and the ability to maintain situational awareness.
- On the night of the accident, the information available to the flight crew regarding the orientation of the aircraft on the airport was:
- CKS Airport navigation chart
- Aircraft heading references
- Runway and Taxiway signage and marking
- Taxiway N1 centerline lights leading to Runway 05L
- Color of the centerline lights (green) on Runway 05R
- Runway 05R edge lights most likely not on
- Width difference between Runway 05L and Runway 05R
- Lighting configuration differences between Runway 05L and Runway 05R
- Para-Visual Display (PVD) showing aircraft not properly aligned with the Runway 05L localizer
- Primary Flight Display (PFD) information The flight crew lost situational awareness and commenced takeoff from the wrong runway.