AOPA President Phil Boyer fired off an angry letter to the head of the FAA's Office of Runway Safety after a Dallas newspaper quoted the regional runway safety program manager blaming general aviation for runway incursions at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).
"I must relay to you the extreme disappointment our AOPA membership feels over the mischaracterization of GA," Boyer wrote. (AOPA also sent a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News to correct the misstatements.)
DFW has had six runway incursions so far this year, all on the west side. And while the majority of the incursions involved airline or air cargo operations, the safety manager said, "I think the issue is that we have more general aviation on the west side." Such pilots "are in smaller airplanes, and they have a different perspective, different view, or they may not be as experienced. In fact, they're never as experienced as airline pilots."
"I am annoyed and insulted by his statement, especially in light of the findings from the FAA's own Runway Safety Report," Boyer said. That report shows that the number of GA incursions is proportional to the number of GA operations. More importantly, most GA incursions are classified as being less serious and present little or no risk of causing an accident. Data presented to Congress shows that an airline transport pilot is just as likely to cause an incursion as a private pilot. (For more information, see AOPA President Phil Boyer's testimony to Congress.)
On the claim that GA pilots were "always less experienced than airline pilots," Boyer said, "Pilots with as few as 1,200 to 1,500 hours total time are being hired by the airlines, paling in comparison to the logbooks of many general aviation pilots flying for both pleasure and business. This type of speculation does a disservice to the public, spreading misconceptions by the very agency charged with overseeing safety."
Boyer reminded the FAA that AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation are extremely active in working cooperatively with the agency to educate pilots on safe operations at airports, with such programs as ASF's innovative Web-based Runway Safety training program.
"With AOPA's commitment to safety and working with the FAA, we would expect fair treatment from the agency," Boyer said.
"This is the second time in recent months we have found ourselves defending statements from this new team of regional runway safety managers. Have they read the recently published Runway Safety Report? Are they schooled in speaking with the media and holding public meetings?
"Please take the steps necessary to correct future unfortunate statements and set the record straight."