Two planes diverted from ILM because of “human error”

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Two planes are forced to return to where they departed after a navigation system at Wilmington International Airport shuts off an hour early.

Construction work is being done at night so they shut down the runway during that time frame. Airport officials are calling the mistake a “human error” which led to the runway lights being shut off an hour early Wednesday night around 11:15pm. Pilots say they had been told the system would be functioning until 12:15am Thursday morning and were forced to divert since they had no way to land their planes.

Airport operations director Gary Broughton said a repaving project involving one of the airport’s two runways occasionally prompts the closure of both runways – and effectively the airport – late at night when work is taking place where the runways cross.

“I was in town to meet some fraternity brothers I went to school with many years ago in Topsail Island,” Bob Keister told WWAY as he waited at ILM for his flight back to Michigan Friday afternoon.
He wasn’t affected by the mistake.
But he heard about the diverted flights at Wilmington International Airport. “I’ve never been on a flight that had to be turned around, but I’ve been on a flight that had to go around a couple times to land,” he said.

He’s headed home, happy.
Not so happy were passengers on two flights late Wednesday.

Here’s part of the conversation from the cockpit in-flight.
(air traffic/Pilots) “We can’t continue anywhere else. We probably have to go back to Charlotte.”

Pilots of two planes(one from Charlotte, one from Atlanta) could not land because a system to guide the planes to the runway at ILM was shutdown an earlier than planned.

Here’s more of the conversation from the cockpit in-flight.
(air traffic/Pilots) “It’s almost like someone flipped the switch early on accident. I’m just passing that along to you. You can decide what you want to do”

What they would decide/forced to do is return to Charlotte and Atlanta.
ILM officials say it was a mistake.
They say the system was supposed to shut down for construction, Thursday at 12:15am.
Instead, it shut down an hour early(Wednesday at 11:15pm).

Traveler Thomas Mcquinn says it brings to light the need to review operations.
“It opens up a box,” he said. “I’d say Wilmington should look at their system and make some corrections.”

The FAA says it is investigating why the instrument landing system was shut down an hour early.
The Wilmington tower is closed each night from 11 p-m to 6 a-m.
During that time… air traffic is handled by controllers in Washington, DC.

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