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Report: Take-off from closed runway highlights importance of checking NOTAMs
26 October 2021

A Swearingen Merlin IIIB twin-turboprop aircraft sustained substantial damage when attempting to take-off from a runway that had been closed for repair works, an ATSB investigation details

The Swearingen SA226-T Merlin had landed at Gunnedah, Australia, on the afternoon of 19 August 2020, and was parked there overnight.  
The following morning, in line with a NOTAM published the previous day closing the runway from 0700 to enable runway repair works, a work crew had excavated two holes from the runway pavement (measuring 3 m wide by 5 m long and about 30 cm deep). 
That afternoon, at about 1230 while the work crew was off-site from the airport during their lunchbreak, the Merlin pilot commenced a take-off run on the runway for a flight to the Gold Coast. 
As the aircraft accelerated, the pilot saw the two rectangular holes excavated from the runway pavement. The pilot attempted to avoid the holes, but they were struck by the aircraft’s left main landing gear.  The aircraft veered off the runway; the pilot – the sole occupant on board the aircraft – was uninjured. 

The ATSB investigation found that during pre-flight planning, the pilot had not checked for relevant NOTAMs, including one stating that Gunnedah Airport was closed due to works in progress.
The investigation also found that while the work crew was away on their lunch break there was no works safety officer on site. Further, while a white cross had been placed at the main windsock, visible to aircraft arriving overhead, there were no ground-visible unserviceability markings on the runway as required by the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part 139 Manual of Standards (MOS) for Aerodromes.  This requirement had recently been changed.

The Gunnedah Airport operator had not received notification of the updated MOS because the email included on CASA’s mailing list was for a member of staff who had left the operator. No autoreply, forwarding, or ‘hard bounce’ was in place on the email address, so CASA was not aware the email had not been received. .