The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an incident Tuesday in which air traffic controllers allowed five airplanes to take off from a closed runway at Pittsburgh International Airport.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the FAA said the planes, including three commercial flights and a private jet, departed from Runway 28 Right even though it had been closed early that morning after runway lights were damaged by lightning strikes Monday evening.
Controllers cleared the flights for take off between 7:20 a.m. and 7:28 a.m. All departed safely. It was not clear whether any maintenance workers were working on the runway when the planes took off.
According to the statement, a visual aid in the tower also had been damaged and did not display the closed runway information. Once the Allegheny County Airport Authority reported that the runway was closed, controllers halted departures. The runway reopened at 8:25 a.m.
The incident is the second this year involving take offs from a closed runway.
On Jan. 26, a controller cleared a Republic Airlines flight for departure on runway 10C at the airport even though it had been closed five hours earlier for maintenance.
No one was injured, but controllers did have to undergo refresher training as a result of the incident.