10/24/2014

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Apple app directs drivers to Alaska airport runway

Apple app directs drivers to Alaska airport runway
Photo provided by the Fairbanks International Airport shows the barricaded entrance to a taxiway, at Float Pond Road blocking access to Taxiway B.
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A glitch in the Apple Maps app on newer iPhones and iPads guides people up to a runway at a major Alaska airport instead of sending them on the proper route to the terminal, an airport official said Wednesday.

The map actually stops at the tarmac, but twice this month, wayward drivers have continued across an active runway.

"It doesn't actually tell you to cross, but the problem is, people see the terminal then at that point, because they are right there, and they just continue across," said Fairbanks International Airport spokeswoman Angie Spear.

There were no injuries in either the Sept. 6 incident or the second one Friday, mainly because they both happened early in the morning, between flights.

"Obviously, it could have been a very, very, very dangerous situation had they come during a flight departure or arrival," Spear said.

That entrance to the taxiway has now been barricaded from traffic.

The first incident involved an out-of-state visitor trying to return a rental car before a flight, and the second was an Alaska resident trying to get to the airport.

Once the control tower and airport personnel noticed the cars, the people were safely escorted away.

"Both parties that did it said they were following the directions on their iPhone," Spear said.

In July, state Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, had a close call of his own when he was trying to make a flight after a meeting.

He was in an unfamiliar part of Fairbanks and decided to use his iPhone map app to take the shortest route to the airport.

Gara said the app took him to some weird places in Fairbanks, and then to the small plane airport near the international airport.

"Eventually, it told me to make a right onto the small plane runway, which in fact was the shortest way to get to the big airport," he said. "I give the iPhone app credit for that."

But he did not heed the directions: "I'm not a big fan of driving on runways."

After the first incident, airport personnel immediately attempted to contact Apple. The airport is a state facility, and the Alaska attorney general's office also reached out to Apple Inc.'s legal department.

"It was our understanding it would be taken care of last week," Spear said, but then the second mishap happened Friday. The app was still incorrect Wednesday morning, she said.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple didn't immediately return a message to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

To be fair, the drivers deserve some blame.

The maps stop at the runway, but the drivers continued about a mile through a gate, past warning lights, numerous signs and painted concrete markings saying not to proceed.

"All of these things were disregarded because people simply trusted their device more than they trusted what they were seeing," she said.
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