Pilot education efforts appear to be paying off. A new FAA report shows the number of runway incursions dropped last year. AOPA and the Air Safety Foundation have been active participants in the FAA's efforts to reduce the incursions. (See the ASF Runway Safety Program.)
The report claimed that general aviation pilots were responsible for slightly more than half of the incursions—a point noted by some news reports—but that only tells part of the story. GA also accounts for about the same proportion of operations at the airports surveyed, indicating that GA pilots are no more likely to cause an incursion than an airline pilot.
"It's worth noting that the vast majority of GA runway incursions pose little or no danger of collision," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg.
Runway incursions are categorized from "D" to "A," with "A and B" being the most dangerous. Category D incursions meet the technical definition of an incursion but pose no threat to any aircraft. Category C incursions involve reduced separation but still allow plenty of time and distance to prevent a collision.
"Almost all GA incursions fall into Category C or D," said Landsberg. "The non-flying public also needs to know that runway incursions of any type are pretty rare. Of the 492 towered airports included in the survey, 306 reported no incursions at all in 2002. In nearly 62 million flight operations at those towered airports, there were 251 incursions in 2002, and 224 of those fell into Category C or D."
ASF and AOPA have worked closely with the FAA to reduce the number of incursions. ASF has hosted seminars on runway safety, published Safety Advisors on ground operations for both towered and nontowered airports, designed and distributed runway safety flashcards to help pilots become more familiar with signs around an airport, and maintains an online runway safety course. ASF has dedicated a unit in its Flight Instructor Refresher Course to runway safety to raise the awareness of the nation's instructors on proper techniques to avoid incursions. AOPA and ASF have published magazine articles and participated in key government committees aimed at reducing incursions.