Report: Taxiway lights were off when plane went into airport ditch

Photo: Submitted

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on a Southwest airplane that went off the taxiway at the Nashville International Airport in December 2015.

The NTSB’s report states that the Boeing 737 landed normally and began taxiing to its assigned gate. The flight crew reported they had difficulty locating the taxiway since the lights were off and there was a glare from the terminal lights.

The plane left the pavement and came to a rest in a drainage ditch.

PHOTOS: Plane goes off taxiway at Nashville airport

Five crew members and 133 passengers were on board the flight at the time of the incident.

Nine people received minor injuries while evacuating the plane and the aircraft was substantially damaged, according to the NTSB report.

Weather was not determined to be a factor in the incident.

CONTINUING: Investigation underway after plane goes off taxiway at Nashville airport

According to the report, the cabin crew attempted to keep the passengers seated and were unable to contact the flight crew due to a load alarm on the flight deck. Ultimately the flight crew decided to begin evacuations.

The NTSB investigation found that after past complaints regarding the brightness of the green taxiway centerline lights, BNA tower controllers routinely turned off the taxiway centerline lighting.

Just 30 minutes prior to the incident, the taxiway lights had been turned off as “a matter of routine,” according to the report.

Shannon Sumrall, the Nashville airport spokesperson, told News 2 that airport authority employees do not have control of the airfield lights. Federal Aviation Administration employees control them.

Ultimately the NTSB found the cause of the crash to be the “flight crew’s early turn towards their assigned gate because the taxiway lighting had been inadvertently turned off by the controller-in-charge which resulted in the airplane leaving the paved surface. Contributing to the accident was the operation of the screen-saver function on the lighting control panel that prevented the tower controllers from having an immediate visual reference to the status of the airfield lighting.”