The FAA announced yesterday that the number of runway incursions fell last year, reversing an upward trend. Significantly, the two most serious types of incursion also decreased, along with the total rate of runway incursions.
AOPA President Phil Boyer, along with the head of FAA's runway safety program, told the press that much of the credit belongs to new education programs for pilots and controllers. Last March, AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation launched an innovative online runway safety course, the ASF Runway Safety program. The number of incursions last year was running slightly ahead of 2000 until mid-year, when several education programs kicked in.
There were 380 incursions last year compared to 431 in 2000. While the majority of incursions were attributed to general aviation aircraft, GA also accounts for the majority of operations at towered airports. Whether looking at airliners or GA aircraft, the rate of incursions is about the same. A high-time airline captain is just as likely to commit a runway incursion as a GA pilot.
ASF and FAA studies have concluded that human factors issues such as runway-taxiway configuration, signing and pavement markings, etc., drive runway incursions. There is no direct relationship to pilot experience.
An incursion is defined as any occurrence on an airport runway involving an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard. Incursions are ranked in degree of severity. Category A and B incursions pose the greatest risk of collision, C and D little risk.
There were 50 category A and B incursions in 2001, a drop from the 68 in 2000. The incursion rate dropped to .59 per 100,000 takeoffs and landing in 2001 from .64 the year before. There was one category A incursion in 2001 that resulted in an accident, but no fatalities.
AOPA and ASF have been leaders in the effort to curb runway incursions. AOPA President Phil Boyer is the only aviation industry representative on the FAA administrator's Runway Safety Management Team. ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg chaired a recent FAA Runway Incursion Task Force.
In addition to the ASF Runway Safety Program, ASF, working in concert with the FAA's Runway Safety Program and National Aeronautical Charting Office, has been offering free, detailed airport taxi diagrams to all pilots via the Internet since February 2000. And ASF's Operations at Towered Airports, a free pamphlet available to all pilots, provides valuable information on how to operate at busy airports.