Dennis Roberts, AOPA vice president and executive director of government and technical affairs, has been named to co-chair the FAA team responsible for implementing runway incursion solutions.
Meanwhile, AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation (ASF) are continuing their own pilot education efforts to reduce the number of incursions.
"The FAA and Congress have placed a very high priority on reducing runway incursions, and general aviation should have a strong voice in this process," said Roberts. "AOPA and ASF have proposed many solutions that could significantly increase safety at little or no cost to airports or aircraft owners."
Along with an Air Line Pilots Association official and an FAA representative, Roberts will guide the FAA/Industry Runway Incursion Joint Safety Implementation Team (JSIT) in choosing the best measures suggested by a top-level FAA advisory team last year. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation served on that panel.
But this is not the first time AOPA and ASF have been involved with the FAA on the runway incursion problem.
AOPA President Phil Boyer is the only GA representative on the FAA administrator's Runway Safety Management Team. Using data developed by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, Boyer last year presented the team with a detailed picture of "pilot deviations" on airport surfaces.
(A pilot deviation occurs whenever a pilot doesn't follow ATC instructions. Runway incursions are included in the larger category of pilot deviations.)
According to the ASF data, general aviation accounts for some 68 percent of all pilot deviations on airport surfaces. However, general aviation also accounts for 52 percent of the operations at towered airports, in part due to flight training and short flights. The vast majority of these flights occur at non-hub airports.
Moreover, almost all GA deviations occur during the day in VFR weather conditions and rarely lead to an incident or accident.
Most runway incursion accidents have happened at night or in low visibility and involve airliners or turbine-powered business aircraft.
While private pilots were responsible for 33 percent of pilot deviations, airline transport pilots accounted for more than 30 percent. Pilots with more than 10,000 hours account for 18 percent of pilot deviations, while pilots with less than 300 hours were responsible for 22 percent.
And pilots are not always to blame. Some 25 percent of runway incursions in 1999 were attributed to air traffic control mistakes.
"Runway incursions are not just a matter of pilot experience or training," said Boyer. "Solutions should be directed at those circumstances where there is the greatest risk of an accident."
Meanwhile, AOPA and the Air Safety Foundation have been actively working to reduce GA runway incursions.
Based on recommendations from the FAA's previous Runway Incursion Task Force (which was headed by Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg), AOPA and ASF began two years ago to improve pilot education and information on the subject.
ASF is now offering free, detailed airport taxi diagrams to all pilots via AOPA Online. In the last month alone, more than 12,000 taxi diagrams have been downloaded.
One of ASF's featured safety seminars for 1999-2000, "Operations at Towered Airports," includes presentations from local air traffic controllers. The accompanying publication for that seminar is available free to all pilots.
And AOPA has been educating pilots with features on the runway incursion problem in AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training magazines, which reach some 60 percent of the active pilots and student pilots in the United States.
"Besides serving on committees studying runway incursions, AOPA and ASF are actually doing something now to reduce the problem," said Boyer. "Pilots should take advantage of all of this available information to increase their preparation and awareness when taxiing."
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
May 25, 2000