FIRST ON 3: Flight forced to turn around when Chattanooga Airport lights turned off
A Chattanooga-bound flight was forced to turn around and return to Atlanta because runway lights were turned off prior to the flight's scheduled arrival time.
UPDATE: The Federal Aviation Administration says the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport closed prematurely, making it impossible for a plane to land early Friday morning.
"Delta Air Lines Flight 4757 returned to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport because the flight crew was unable to turn on the runway lighting system as it approached Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport for its scheduled landing at 12:24 a.m. today," said Jim Peters, with the FAA Office of Communications, in an email to Channel 3.
"Prior to closing at 11:50 p.m. last night, the control tower at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport turned off the runway lighting system, instead of switching the system to pilot control function, which enables flight crews to turn on the runway lighting before landing. Once the pilot control function was restored, Delta 4757 took off from Atlanta, landing safely at Chattanooga at 1:49 a.m."
A spokesperson for the airport told Channel 3 the issue was the result of an "internal miscommunication within (the FAA)."
PREVIOUS STORY: A Chattanooga-bound flight was forced to turn around and return to Atlanta because runway lights were turned off prior to the flight’s scheduled arrival time.
According to Flight Aware, Delta flight 4757 took off from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta on Thursday night at 11:35. The flight was scheduled to touch down at the Chattanooga Airport shortly before 12:30 Friday morning, but was an hour and 23 minutes late arriving at the gate.
“The pilot came on the intercom and said the Chattanooga Airport is supposed to close at 12:30 pm, our flight is on schedule, but it looks like everyone decided to close early and go home,” a passenger wrote on the Chattanooga Airport’s Facebook page, detailing the event.
The plane turned around and went back to Atlanta. Records show the plane landed in Atlanta at 12:41 am and took off again for Chattanooga more than 30 minutes later, ultimately reaching its final destination at 1:46 am.
Another passenger tells Channel 3 the plane refueled in Atlanta to make a second flight to Chattanooga.
“Once in Atlanta, we refueled and they got hold of the Chattanooga airport which apparently said they would open again, so we took off again from Atlanta and headed back to Chattanooga,” the passenger told Channel 3.
Albert Waterhouse, the spokesperson for the Chattanooga Airport, says the airport is taking steps to ensure the incident does not happen again.
“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees and manages the runway lighting system at the airport. Last night there was an internal miscommunication within that agency, which resulted in the lights being turned off too early. However, we have had a discussion with agency’s management, and we are satisfied this will not happen again. We regret any inconvenience for our passengers, and although delayed, we are glad they were able to land in Chattanooga later in the evening.”
Channel 3 has reached out to the FAA for comment. We are told additional details are coming.
Stay with Channel 3 for more on this developing story.