Part 2: Reading comprehension

Part 2: Reading comprehension

Read this press report of a take-off incident at Nice airport

Wrong runway

Taking off from – or landing on – the wrong runway is something which happens more often than one might expect and can have serious consequences. One such incident happened recently at Nice Airport involving an Antonov An-148 and is under investigation by the French Civil Aviation Authority’s Investigation and Analysis Unit. The Antonov was preparing to take off for a flight to Kiev and was proceeding along taxiway U, parallel to runway 04L – the runway which it had been assigned. Nice has two, parallel runways, 04/22, each almost 3000m long, making it suitable for large passenger jets. The 85 seat Antonov had just left terminal 1, the terminal nearest to the control tower and had received clearance to proceed along taxiways S, D and T towards holding point A1 on runway 04L. However, the aircraft turned left too soon after crossing taxiway U and, having received take off clearance, started to accelerate. The METAR for the scheduled take off time indicates reasonable weather and visibility of 10km, with a chance of light rain which would have reduced visibility.

The control tower noticed the mistake and told the crew to abort take-off but by this time the aircraft was travelling at 92 knots (170km/h). It had covered about 1/3 of the runway and so had approximately 2000m left to brake and turn around. Fortunately, the brake temperature remained within take-off safety parameters after the RTO and so the AN-148 was able to line up on the correct runway and take off for Kiev as planned shortly afterwards.

The chances of this incident having serious consequences were, in reality, slight, even if the controller hadn’t noticed the Antonov’s crew’s mistake. The aircraft would have reached its take-off speed of 135kts with roughly 1000m remaining, although this distance is affected by the aircraft’s mass, temperature and wind direction. However, by using taxiway U, the aircraft would have overflown the city, potentially upsetting local residents who regularly complain about such incidents.

By analysing recordings of conversations between the crew and the control tower, as well as the cockpit recordings of conversations between the pilots, the Investigation and Analysis Unit hope to be able to identify the circumstances which lead to such incidents and in so doing reduce the likelihood of them happening. The investigation will also focus on runway markings and the radar equipment in Nice. In addition, the investigators will look at the clearances given to the crew by ATC and how the crew interpreted these instructions and carried them out, as well as the crew’s training for dealing with such situations.


  1. Give three pieces of information about the runways at Nice airport.
  2. How many passengers can the Antonov An-148 carry?
  3. Explain the aircraft’s route from the terminal to the runway.
  4. What mistake did the aircraft’s crew make?
  5. What was the weather like?
  6. Why was the aircraft able to take off after only a brief delay?
  7. In your opinion, how dangerous was this situation? Explain your answer.
  8. According to the report, which factors affect take-off distance?
  9. What makes people living close to Nice airport angry?
  10. What aspects of this incident are the investigators particularly interested in?

Vocabulary practice

  1. Explain the following aviation terms which appear in the text:
    • Taxiway
    • take off clearance
    • holding point
    • METAR
    • to abort take-off
    • RTO
  2. Which of the words underlined in the text mean the opposite of:
    • Unplanned
    • Unimportant
    • Late
    • Outside
    • Furthest
  3. Find the words approximately and look at in the text. The text also contains other words / expressions which are roughly equivalent in meaning to them. What are they?
    • Approximately
    • Look at
  4. Think of another verb which could replace these verbs which appear in the text (highlighted in yellow):
    • Proceeding / to proceed
    • Noticed
    • Remained
    • Upsetting
    • focus on
  5. Explain the meaning of these expressions, highlighted in pink in the text, or give another word or expression which could replace them:
    • Consequences
    • Preparing
    • Assigned
    • to accelerate
    • Fortunately
    • However
    • In addition