CPW: Runway extension may prevent problems like Monday accident

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COLUMBIA - Passengers at Columbia Regional Airport reached their destinations Tuesday following an airport closure overnight.

Crews removed Flight 3621 around 3:45 a.m. more than 13 hours after the back left tire got stuck in the mud while taxiing out to the runway for take-off. 

Columbia Public Works public information specialist Steven Sapp said the current runways are out-of-date and that many FAA requirements have changed since the original construction was completed in the 1960's.

The Columbia City Council and the FAA recently approved a five year master plan to update the airport's runways and terminal. The first phase of the project is aimed to fix the tight turns pilots are forced to make at the airport.

"It will improve the turning mechanisms off of the taxiway onto the main runway," he said. "So instead of having to make a turn that is kind of 120 degrees and backwards, it will be a standard 90 degree turn that you or I are used to on a roadway."

Airport Advisory Board member Greg Cecil told KOMU 8 News that the pilots who land and take off from Columbia Regional Airport are not always familiar with the airport and that there was a lot of confusion about what exactly happened.

A statement released by American Airlines Monday night reads: 

"While taxiing out for take-off, the left main landing gear of American Eagle Flight 3621, operated by Envoy Air from Columbia, Mo. (COU) to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), exited the taxiway in Columbia. The aircraft is a CRJ-700 with 62 passengers and a crew of four. No injuries were reported and all passengers have deplaned and are safely in the terminal. Maintenance is en route to evaluate the aircraft and we are working to re-accommodate customers on other flights to their final destinations. Envoy is cooperating fully with both the FAA and NTSB."

Marge Eldon and her husband traveled from the Lake of the Ozarks to catch their flight to Dallas/Fort Worth Tuesday afternoon. She said she feels lucky her travel plans were scheduled for Tuesday rather than Monday.

"I couldn't believe it actually happened and the second time in two months, it's a little daunting," Eldon said. "I don't know if they need to put gravel down or widen or give different driving lessons to the pilots." 

The first two flights out of the airport Tuesday morning were delayed. All other flights were expected to be on time.