The FAA's Office of Runway Safety and Operational Services wanted to reverse the dangerous trend of runway incursions. To better educate America's pilots about runway safety and ensure that this message would reach the huge general aviation audience, the FAA turned to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation to help spread the word.
The FAA's new, 28-page brochure, "Pilot's Guide to Safe Surface Operations," was distributed in the September issue of AOPA Pilot, the world's number-one aviation magazine, as part of an educational partnership between the FAA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. In addition to the brochure, articles in the magazine featured additional insight on safety issues and tips on what general aviation pilots can do to reduce the threat of runway incursions (incidents where a person, ground vehicle, or aircraft is on or too close to a runway when another aircraft has been cleared to use it).
Reflecting the seriousness of this growing problem, the FAA also enlisted the AOPA Air Safety Foundation to develop a highly innovative and interactive online course, aptly titled Runway Safety: Safe Flying Starts and Ends on the Ground. The centerpiece of the educational campaign, this remarkable course challenges pilots to reexamine how much they really know about ground operations. The course, free to all pilots ( www.aopa.org/asf/runway_safety/), also provides a thorough understanding of how to operate aircraft safely while on the ground.
"Runway incursion accidents are one of the most preventable types, because it's almost entirely a matter of pilot education and awareness," said Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. "When the FAA asked us to help teach pilots about the dangers and how to avoid them, we decided on this multifaceted education initiative."
Using animation, video, challenging quizzes, and startling real-life examples, the course reminds pilots that they have to "fly the plane" from the time they start the engine until they shut it down again at their destination.
In the past, the number of runway incursions was more or less evenly distributed across all pilot certificate levels - a private pilot was statistically no more or less likely to cause an incursion than an airline transport pilot. But over the past two years, the airlines have improved dramatically, to the point that GA is now responsible for a disproportionately high number of incursions.
"The simple fact is that runway incursions should never happen - but they do," Landsberg said. "The best solution is for pilots to be thoroughly familiar with airport markings and with the runway and taxiway layout at the airports they'll be using."
The article in the September issue of AOPA Pilot examines the problems at an airport with the dubious distinction of being the GA airport with the highest number of incursions, as well as tips and technology to prevent the problem. The "Pilot's Guide" insert offers guidelines, tips, and much more useful safety information. AOPA Pilot reaches more pilots than any other aviation magazine in the world. It's distributed to more than 400,000 AOPA members. In addition, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has developed a set of downloadable Runway Safety flash cards. Pilots, flight instructors, and examiners can use them to test a pilot's knowledge of signs and markings found at an airport.
Successful completion of the free AOPA Air Safety Foundation Runway Safety online course could also mitigate an FAA enforcement action if a pilot is later involved in a pilot-caused runway incursion. Under the FAA's Runway Incursion Information and Evaluation Program (RIIEP), the agency plans to forego punitive legal enforcement and will normally be more lenient with a pilot who has passed the course and who meets other criteria. Passing the course also fulfills the ground requirement for the FAA's Wings pilot proficiency program.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation, the world's largest nonprofit GA safety organization, was founded in 1950 solely to help general aviation pilots improve flight safety. Since that time, the GA total accident rate has dropped by more than 90 percent despite a large increase in GA flight hours. ASF produces not only online interactive courses such as Runway Safety, but also live safety seminars, videotapes, printed Safety Advisors and other aviation safety materials for free distribution to all GA pilots.
August 12, 2004