Digital Technology and the Qatar Airways Miami Runway Mishap

Qatar Airways made the news, and not in a good way, three months ago when one of its 777s en route from Miami to Doha nearly overran the runway on departure, clipping landing lights and puncturing the skin of the aircraft. The plane was able to successfully complete the trip without further incident; in that sense all’s well that ends well. But the preliminary report from the incident was issued today by the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority and it raises some interesting questions about flight deck procedures and the use of digital solutions and how that may affect some safety scenarios.

The short version of the findings is that the pilots chose to depart from intersection T1 on Miami’s runway 9 that evening rather than use the full length of the runway as the flight computer indicated. This left the crew with roughly 1000 meters less of runway than the flight computer called for. That they got off the ground at all is quite spectacular.


This is also where the question of the digital systems comes in to play. Because they were using an Electronic Flight Bag (“EFB”) kit they had the ability to select a specific airport and then zoom in to see the runway layout. In this particular instance the crew may have zoomed in too far. The view the captain had (above) did not show the full length of the runway (below) so when they turned off at the taxiway T1 it was not clear just how much more runway there was further down. Similarly possible on a paper map when folded over, of course, but it seems to me that the digital nature of the map in this case likely contributed to the confusion.


The collision with the runway lights cut a 46cm gash in the fuselage; the aircraft had 90 different specific damage points requiring inspection and recertification. There was potential for a serious incident. Fortunately that did not come to pass. And while the preliminary findings are explicitly not laying blame I cannot help but wonder about the role that EFB setup played.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. This Is nonsense. The efb had very little to do with anything. It’s a tool. Nothing more. The decision making process of the pilots is the issue. They went against what their own flight computer told them. They accepted a intersection takeoff. I fly a Cessna and I almost never accept an intersection. Why not use all of what’s their? Runway behind you is worthless!

    The post is nonsensical, as is Quatars report if it puts the blame on the efb. Nothing more than a way to deflect blame from the pilots REALLY poor choices.

    1. Yes, it is a tool. Just like the paper maps are a tool. But it is much easier to use this one incorrectly IMO based on what we see with the screen shot the pilot was using. Like most incidents this one will likely mostly be based on human factors. But in this case the guys up front were helped along in making those mistakes by some of the technology which is supposed to reduce such errors. I find that interesting as I look at the industry trends and how these systems are going to become more pervasive in the future.

  2. The thought of a 777 bound for a 7500 mile journey filled to the brim with fuel taking any type of intersection departure on any runway for any reason is down-right scary. I know MIA like the palm of my hand and if I were on that flight and saw us departing from Runway 9 T1 I would have shit my pants! AMAZING that they made it off ok. that leaves less than 9000 feet for a fully loaded 777, only because of MIA being at sea level did they make it off.

  3. Regardless of the technology in play here, shouldn’t the pilots have seen the runway distance markers (for lack of a better term – I don’t know what they’re actually called – but the big lighted “9,” “8,” etc on the side of each runway in the US that shows how many thousand feet are remaining) to just visibly see that they were starting at ~9,000 feet instead of 13,000?

    1. Yep good points all around. Yes, they should have seen the runway length markers which makes me think they made a conscious decision to proceed. Maybe there was a delay and by taking off at the intersection they could get going faster? I’m not aware if that was the case or not.

      And Seth, I get your point. I just don’t absolve the pilots from a bad decision – which they made. They got lucky. Thankfully.

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