When The Airplane Joined An Approximate 6-Mile Final, It Was Aligned With Runway 28L

Location: Pittsburgh, PA Incident Number: DCA22LA133
Date & Time: June 21, 2022, 09:44 Local Registration: N37513
Aircraft: Boeing 737-9 Injuries: 174 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 121: Air carrier – Scheduled

On June 21, 2022, at 0944 eastern daylight time (EDT), United Airlines Flight 2627, a Boeing 737-9 Max, N37513, was cleared for a visual approach and landing on runway 28C at the Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but instead lined up with and landed on runway 28L. None of the 174 occupants aboard the airplane were injured and the aircraft was not damaged. The regularly scheduled passenger flight was operating under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 121 from the Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Chicago, Illinois to PIT.

According to the flight crew, the incident flight was the first flight of a three-day trip with a scheduled departure time of 0830 EDT from ORD. The flight was scheduled to land in PIT on runway 28L. The captain was the pilot flying, and the first officer was the pilot monitoring. ADS-B data indicated that the incident airplane took off from ORD at about 0845 EDT. The flight crew reported that the departure, takeoff and climb phases of flight were normal. Because this was a short flight, the flight crew began setting up for the arrival and approach. They obtained and reviewed automatic terminal information service (ATIS) information which indicated a RNAV GPS Y 28C approach into PIT.

Before the top of descent, they programmed this information into the flight management computer (FMC). Upon initial contact with PIT approach control, the flight crew was told to expect a visual approach to runway 32 into PIT. The flight crew briefed the new approach and proceeded to load the ILS 32 approach into the FMC to back up the visual approach. While being radar vectored on the downwind and descending through about 4,000 feet Mean Sea level (msl), the flight crew indicated that they had a check landing altitude message displayed briefly on the FMC. After the message disappeared and with the autopilot engaged, the aircraft reverted to control wheel steering pitch mode. They selected level change and reselected the autopilot to command mode. The airplane began its descent at about 0918 EDT, and as they were descending, approach control asked them if they could accept a visual approach to runway 28C. The weather was clear, and the winds were 250 degrees at 4 knots, so they accepted the runway change. The first officer then re-programmed the FMC for the RNAV GPS Y 28C to back up the visual approach.

The flight crew established communication with the local controller when the airplane was approximately 6. 5 miles east of the airport. They crew advised the controller they were on a visual approach to Runway 28C, to which the controller cleared them to land on Runway 28C. According to the captain, approximately 2 miles from SUPPR, on an intercept heading and while descending, “the screen was black, both FMC’s blanked” except for the aircraft communications, addressing and reporting system (ACARS) prompt and no FMC prompt. The captain used heading select and level change on the mode control panel (MCP). However, when the airplane joined an approximate 6-mile final, it was aligned with Runway 28L.

When the airplane was approximately on a 2-mile final and still aligned with Runway 28L, the flight crew requested verification of their clearance to land on Runway 28C. The controller advised the flight crew of mowing in progress in the grass area and cleared them to land on Runway 28C. The flight crew read back their clearance to land on Runway 28C. About 0944 EDT, the airplane landed on runway 28L, turned right off the runway, and exited runway 28L at taxiway F5. The controller noticed the airplane was lined up for runway 28L when it was on short final but decided that it was more appropriate to allow the airplane to land given their altitude. The facility reported that the traffic volume was light with routine complexity. The distance from the airport traffic control tower to the runway 28C threshold was approximately 7,500 feet.

Upon notification, the following NTSB specialists were assigned to investigate this incident: airplane systems, operations, air traffic control (ATC), and recorders. Parties to the investigation include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The Boeing Company, United Airlines, and Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA).

The digital flight data recorder (DFDR) was removed from the airplane and shipped to the NTSB’s Vehicle Recorder Laboratory located in Washington, DC for a download of data. One flight management computer (FMC) was also removed from the airplane for examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov