WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ)- Sheppard Air Force Base is now providing some insight on airfield operations. It comes two weeks after an American Eagle flight set to land in Wichita Falls was diverted back to DFW over what the airlines claimed was a runway lighting problem.
While one runway was shut down that night, a different runway was lit and available for landing, according to Colonel Greg Keeton, a Commander with the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base.
“We're doing our best, day in and day out, with a large operation to make sure that we are good members of our community,” said Keeton.
They said that night, Wednesday, January 20, 2016, the pilot controlled runway, 15 Right/33 Left was closed. It's the same runway that the American Eagle pilots were trying to access.
“It's something that is available and is supposed to be checked by everybody that fly's an airplane or that is planning on coming into an airfield,” said Keeton. “They're supposed to check and make sure there's not going to be any difficulties either along the route of flight or at the intended location that they're going to.”
On top of that notification, they called the Fort Worth aviation center to notify them of the runway closure as well as the dispatcher, according to Keeton.
“So we had a lot of 35 foot tall, what we call, obstacles out there that the aircraft could hit that poses a flight safety risk,” said Tommy Hoover, Airfield Manager at the 80th Flying Training Wing at SAFB.
The commercial flight did have another option. Runway 17/35, the city leased runway, was lit up.
However, the pilot controlled runway, is 13,100 ft. by 300 ft, and runway 17/35 is significantly smaller, 7,021 ft. by 150 ft wide. Hoover said regardless of the size difference the landing shouldn’t have been a problem.
“DFW American Eagle is not going to book any commercial flights to this regional airport without knowing their aircraft land and take that runway,” said Hoover.
Prior to this explanation from Sheppard Air Force Base, American Airlines officials told Newschannel 6 that the incident was not a pilot error, instead, that it was a problem on the airport's end.
However, Thursday we did reach back out to American Airlines to find out what they have to say about those notifications made, we have not heard back.
Newschannel 6 also reached back out to the city Thursday. We’re told they have not yet received a report regarding the incident from Sheppard Air Force Base. City Officials said they will not comment until they get that report.