On 14 December 2012, an Airbus A320 operated on a scheduled passenger flight from Hobart, Tasmania to Melbourne, Victoria, without the runway lights being activated for the taxi and takeoff roll.
Outside tower hours, Hobart Airport operated as a non-towered uncontrolled airport, operating on a common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). When operating as a CTAF, the runway lighting was controlled by a pilot activated lighting (PAL) system that was combined with an aerodrome frequency response unit. Two pilot activated lighting systems exist at Australian airports, Pilot Activated Lighting (PAL) and Aerodrome Frequency Response Unit plus PAL (AFRU+PAL). Hobart Airport is equipped with the ARFU+PAL type installation. The two systems differ in their activation methods.
A number of situational factors were associated with the crew not activating the runway lights prior to departure. Defining a specific place for PAL tasks in the crew’s sequence of procedures, and incorporating this into a pre-taxi checklist, could potentially ensure more reliability in performing these tasks.