May 9, 2012 6:32 PM
TUCSON - Preventative maintenance at the Tucson International Airport has caused confusion in recent months. Since March, pilots of small aircraft have mistakenly landed on the wrong runway.
A special bulletin issued by the Federal Aviation Administration states "Runway 29R is being confused for runway 29L due to recent resurfacing of Taxiway A."
Jim Garcia, the Vice-President of Operations at TIA said the problem is due to preventative maintenance. "The perspective is kind of confusing to them, OK? They're seeing the differences in the color in the asphalt or in the pavement."
The color change is creating an optical illusion for pilots. Junaid Adil has been flying in and out of TIA for six years and noticed something was wrong, "it looks like a runway unless you get way close to it but from a distance it looks like a runway," he said.
Three general aviation pilots have made the mistake and Adil understands how it's possible, "a new pilot coming in for the first time could mistake the taxiway for a runway, or the right for the left or vice-versa and that could create a problem."
The problem only exists during the day because at night the runways are lit. And pilots of commercial flights have navigational aids on the ground for assistance so small aircraft pilots are the only ones reporting the problem, "they're being given instruction by the FAA to enter into one particular runway and they think they're aligned with it correctly and then the FAA might ping back and say no you need to move and align with the correct runway," Garcia explained.
The Tucson International Airport says crews will add a coat of paint as a short term fix but in the future expect to lengthen and expand the runways to create a more parallel runway.