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Runway Incursions

Editor's Runway: Only You Can Prevent Runway Incursions

By Phyllis-Anne Duncan (From FAA Aviation News, October 1999)

So says Associate Editor H. Dean Chamberlain in his article on preventing runway incursions, " Runway Incursion Is No Accident." So says just about every aviation safety professional in the FAA and in the industry. Runway incursions-actually the prevention of them-is just about number one on the Administrator's Safer Skies safety agenda. Runway incursions, despite the best efforts of the FAA, airport management, and the airlines, have been on the rise, and FAA has been working with industry to devise some strategies on how to reduce runway incursions by 15% from the 1997 level by 2000. The potential for loss of life from a runway incursion that be- comes an accident is tremendous, and the responsibility for reducing incursions is one everyone in aviation shares.

Aviation Safety Program education seminars are in the works, and if you're a designated pilot examiner or a certificated flight instructor, you'll soon be receiving a letter to airmen describing what you can do in teaching and examining pilots to reduce the number of runway incursions. Recently, the Director of the Flight Standards Service, L. Nicholas Lacey, sent a memorandum to the Managers of FAA's Flight Standards Regional Divisions asking them to increase the awareness of pilots in their jurisdictions of "the critical nature of ground operations.... Through all means available to you, please encourage the use of the following nine points of safe ground operations, discipline, and the importance of this discipline to safe operations."

Nine Points of Safe Ground Operations

  1. Review airport layouts as part of preflight planning, during cruise before descent, and while taxiing. [Remember to look for traffic as well, particularly while taxiing. Don't want to be a runway incursion statistic while trying to prevent a runway incursion.-Editor]
  2. Know and understand airport signage.
  3. Read back all runway crossing and/or hold short instructions.
  4. Review Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) for runway/taxiway closures and construction areas.
  5. Request progressive taxi instructions when unsure of the taxi route.
  6. Check for traffic before entering any runway or taxiway. [Looking both ways doesn't just apply to crossing the highway.-Editor]
  7. Turn on aircraft lights while taxiing. [Of course, don't overload your electrical system in the process. Consult your manufacturer's recommendations and use your best judgement.-Editor]
  8. Clear the active runway on rollout as quickly as possible, then wait for taxi instructions before further movement.
  9. Study and use proper phraseology found in the Aeronautical Information Manual when responding to ground control instructions.

I might add a tenth: When in doubt, ask. Believe me, air traffic controllers would prefer that you do that rather than assume you know what they want.

These nine steps to safer ground operations are just the beginning salvo in reducing and hopefully eliminating runway incursions as a safety problem. As Mr. Lacey's memo says, vigilance and discipline, especially for the single-pilot operation, are essential to assuring safe operations on airport movement areas. The alternative is beyond unacceptable. It's dangerous.

We'll let Mr. Lacey's words close out this issue's editorial:

"Aviation safety is the business of all who participate. Please spread the word of runway incursion prevention."

'Til next time...