757 reports near miss with lawnmower

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A plane carrying almost 200 passengers had a close shave with a tractor lawnmower as it landed on a foggy night, it was disclosed today.

The driver of the sit-on mower did not even notice the Boeing 757 until its wing passed over his head as he cut grass near runways at Dublin Airport.

Air accident investigators have launched a probe in to the near miss, which happened shortly before 3am on 29 May.

The aircraft, which had flown from Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, had 198 passengers and eight crew on board.

No-one was injured.

The flight, chartered on behalf of Thomson Airways, had just touched down when crew reported the ground equipment at the edge of the runway lights.

The Irish Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Unit found the small ride-on grass mower had been moving along the runway a number of metres inside the edge lighting.

"The mower had no rear lighting or flashing beacon and it was not equipped with any airband radio equipment capable of listening out on the control tower frequency," said the report.

"The driver of the mower was unaware that an aircraft was landing and he did not see the aircraft before it passed his vehicle.

"It is probable that the starboard wing of the Boeing 757 passed over the ride-on mower during the landing roll."

Several ride-on mowers had been cutting grass on the side of runways until work had been stopped six minutes early due to fog.

Air traffic controllers were not aware the unsuspecting workman was almost in the path of the oncoming jet when they gave the all-clear for landing.

In a preliminary report, investigators recommended Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) should ensure all vehicles operating close to active runways have flashing lights, airband VHF radios linked to ground control and tower frequencies and were fitted with equipment to be detected on the ground.

The DAA told the investigation it had already implemented the interim safety recommendation.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said its Advanced Surface Movements Guidance and Control System (ASMGCS) was currently being commissioned in Dublin and was expected to be fully operational by September.

A recording of the ASMGCS images from the event, which was still under test, showed a ride-on mower moving along the runway.

"The test recording also shows... the potential conflict between the landing aircraft and the ride-on mower," the report added.

A final report will be published when a full investigation is complete.