Southwest Boeing 737 700 Plane Takes off From Closed-Down Runway of Portland International Jetport

In a startling breach of aviation protocol, a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft took off from a closed runway at Portland International Jetport in Maine. Naturally, the incident raised alarms, and a full-scale investigation was launched by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board). This development has sent shockwaves throughout the aviation industry and really opened some very key questions relating to communication, decision-making, and adherence to processes in commercial flight operations.

On June 25, Southwest Airlines Flight 4805 was planned to take off at dawn from Portland International Jetport heading to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The scheduled time of departure for the plane at that point was about 05:40 local time. Before one could even think, the plane started rolling down Runway 11/29, which was officially closed at that time except for crossing and taxi operations, making takeoffs impossible.

A NOTAM issued on June 20 clearly stated that Runway 11/29 at Portland International Jetport is closed daily from 22:30 to 05:45 during the week. The closure was only for taxi and crossing, with no takeoffs and landings during those hours. In this regard, the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700’s departure occurred well within this time frame and was in clear violation of the NOTAM.

Making matters worse, according to air traffic control audio recordings obtained by WMTW, a local news outlet, controllers did inform the Southwest crew about the status of the runway. One controller could be heard telling them, “Southwest turning onto 29, just so you know there’s still a vehicle in the runway and it is closed.” This communication raises serious questions about why the flight crew of the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 became prepared to take off with this critical information on ground vehicle presence.

Adding to the risk, reports indicated that a ground vehicle crossed the runway at incident time. The presence of the vehicle on an active runway—even one that was supposed to be closed—presents a huge potential for a safety hazard. It was just luck and quick thinking by the ground personnel that averted a collision

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Southwest Airlines responded to the incident with this statement: “Southwest Airlines is engaged with the NTSB and FAA to understand the circumstances of an early morning Southwest departure on Tuesday, June 25, of Flight 4805 from Portland International Jetport. After departure, the aircraft continued safely to its destination.” The airline is cooperating fully with the investigating authorities to understand how this breach occurred, and that cooperation will help in preventing any such incident in the future.

Officials at the Portland International Jetport also reacted to the incident, relieved by the outcome: “We are grateful that airport staff maintained situational awareness, identifying in real-time the aircraft entering the runway environment and immediately vacating the airport vehicle from the runway.” More than anything else, this statement emphasises that ground staff is such that it retains situational awareness for safety even in case of any unexpected event.


This incident at Portland International Jetport with the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 has wide implications for the aviation sector. It very powerfully serves notice to how important adherence to prescribed safety procedures really is and how serious the consequences of failures in communication or judgement can be. Air carriers, airports, and all global overseeing bodies would, no doubt, pay great attention to the findings of this investigation, thus ushering in worldwide reviews across the industry in procedures that may have updates or improvements, such as runway operations and crew communication.

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