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Thu, Oct 28, 2010

U.S. Senator Lands On Closed Runway

And It Was Clearly Marked With A Large, Yellow "X"

Workers performing maintenance on the main runway at Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport (KPIL) in TX got a bit of a surprise last week when an airplane landed on there. The pilot was U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) (pictured).

The runway was clearly marked as being closed, and a NOTAM had been issued for the maintenance work. But Inhofe said he "didn't have a NOTAM" when asked about the incident.

Inhofe told the Washington Post that he was traveling to his property on South Padre Island, which he has done for the past 50 years. He said he noticed the runway closure markings as he was preparing to land, so he flew the Cessna 340 with two other people on board over the maintenance workers and touched down "well off the the side."

Inhofe said he called the FAA after he landed, and was told that since there was no accident, there was "no significant problem." Departing from Port Isabel, Inhofe chose to take off from a taxiway rather than use the closed runway, or one of the airports available runways. Inhofe told the paper "I really didn't have a choice." Given the size and weight of the airplane, h e said, the taxiway was a safer, better option. He said he informed airport officials of his intention to make a taxiway departure.

While the FAA can suspend a pilots' flying priveleges for either landing on a closed runway or departing from a taxiway, the infractions are often not enforced. Pilots are allowed to file a voluntary report on those incidents, and that is where it generally stops. The Tulsa World reports that the FAA confirmed it is looking into the incident to see if further action is warranted.

FMI: http://inhofe.senate.gov, www.faa.gov

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