Christopher Foust, Baltimore/Washington ATCT
It had all the makings of a disaster. It was dark outside. The airport had multiple runways and taxiways – some running parallel to one another, some perpendicular. As darkness fell, the runway and taxiway lights were in full “on” mode for a nighttime operation. Even to a seasoned pilot, the sea of lights, runways, and taxiways can be confusing.
This was the situation on the night of December 18, 2007, at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI) when air traffic controller Christopher Foust was working local control.
Standard configuration at BWI is to depart on Runway 28 and land on the intersecting Runway 33 Left. Runway 33 Right is also in use for small prop/corporate jets.
At approximately 8:20 p.m. local time, Foust cleared a Citation 550 to taxi from the general aviation ramp, on the east side of the airport, to Runway 28 for departure.
As the Citation, N505RP, was taxiing to the runway the ground controller sent a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 towards Runway 28 for departure. The B737 was traveling eastbound on Taxiway U (Uniform).
After clearing the Citation for departure off Runway 28, Foust continued to work other traffic, while continuously scanning the runways for any abnormal activity. As the B737 was headed eastbound up Taxiway U, Foust noticed that the Citation had become confused and had entered into a takeoff roll on Taxiway U instead of the parallel Runway 28. The Citation was headed straight towards the oncoming Southwest Airlines jet.
Foust reacted quickly, telling the Citation to hold his position and canceling the takeoff clearance. The pilot complied and a serious incident was averted.
An award presented to Foust by the Federal Aviation Administration read in part, “Due to Mr. Foust’s vigilance, attention to the operation, and quick action, a serious incident/accident was averted.”
NATCA BWI Facility Representative John Dunkerly concurred. “Christopher’s situational awareness, attention to detail, and quick reaction time facilitated his ability to cancel the takeoff clearance on the Citation, thereby preventing a serious incident/accident.”
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