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Near-miss at Irish airport caused by lawnmower on runway

A startled pilot involved in a late-night near-miss at Dublin Airport radioed air traffic controllers to tell them he thought he saw a lawnmower on a runway.

After the Boeing 737 carrying about 200 people touched down, the co-pilot told colleagues he “noticed a lawnmower too close to the runway edge lighting”.

The plane's wing tip passed a few metres over the head of a maintenance man on the ride-on machine seconds after landing.

An air accident investigation detailed radio contact between the crew and air traffic controllers when one of the disbelieving pilots said: “Could have sworn I saw a man riding a lawnmower.”

The incident happened in thick fog on May 29 at 1.53am after Dublin Airport Authority sent out three teams to cut grass along runways. One supervisor told how he had heard of workers being told to ride lawnmowers down the centre when on the runway.

The mower driver involved in the near-miss had minutes earlier been asked to leave the airfield because of poor visibility.

The worker had no radio link to air traffic control, the machine did not have warning lights and he was wearing ear defenders.

The aircraft, which had flown from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, had 198 passengers and eight crew on board. No-one was injured.

The Irish Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) found the small ride-on grass mower had been moving along the runway a number of metres inside the edge lighting.

The driver was unaware an aircraft was landing until he heard a powerful screech of brakes behind him. Air traffic controllers were not aware the unsuspecting workman was almost in the path of the oncoming jet when they gave the all-clear for landing.

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