Preventing Runway Incursions
A Growing Problem at Controlled Airports
The FAA defines a runway incursion as "Any occurrence at an airport involving an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in loss of separation with an aircraft taking off, intending to take off, landing, or intending to land." FAA also only recognizes runway incursions as occurring at airports with operating control towers.
Over the last five-years, runway incursions have increased 71% from 186 to 318. Detailed investigations of these incidents have identified three major contributing factors:
Cockpit procedures for maintaining orientation
The risk of being involved in a runway incursion can be greatly reduced by improving communications skills, increasing knowledge of airport taxiways and runways, and following cockpit procedures.
Keep Communications Clear and Concise
Effective pilot/controller communication is key to safe surface operations. Clear understanding of instructions should never be compromised, especially during busy times or when the frequency is congested.
Listen before you transmit.
If able, monitor radio communications to establish a "mental picture" of
Think before keying your transmitter. Keep communications with the controller clear and concise, and follow recommended standard phraseology as indicated in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM).
Never assume. Ensure you understand all instructions.
Read back runway "hold short" instructions verbatim.
Be Familiar with the Airport
It sounds simple... know where you are and where you are going. In reality, ground operations can be the most demanding and complex phase of flight.
Detailed airport diagrams are helpful and are available on NOAA and other commercial vendors' approach charts. Although instrument-rated pilots primarily use such diagrams, VFR pilots will also find them useful during surface operations.
Review airport diagrams before
taxiing or landing.
Keep airport/taxi diagrams readily available during taxiing.
Request progressive taxiing instructions from air traffic control.
Be alert to airport vehicle and pedestrian activity.
Follow Proper Cockpit Procedures
Pilots can use proven and effective procedures in the cockpit to help conduct safe operations on the ground and during takeoff and landing.
Maintain a sterile cockpit
environment. Avoid unnecessary conversation during surface operations,
takeoff, and landing.
Constantly scan outside of the cockpit, especially when on runways.
If lost while taxiing on the surface, contact air traffic control immediately.
Make your aircraft visible by proper use of aircraft lights.
If you are unfamiliar with the airport, again, do not hesitate to request progressive taxi instructions.
Ensure proper radio operation, check audio panel, volume control, and squelch settings.
Know and follow lost communication procedures, and use good judgment should radio failure occur.
Stay Alert, Especially in Low Visibility
Extra vigilance is required when visibility decreas-es, and the ability for pilots and controllers to maintain a desired level of situational awareness becomes significantly more difficult. During periods of reduced visibility, pilots should keep in mind:
Cockpit workload and distractions
tend to increase.
As cockpit activity increases, attention to communications tends to decrease.
Fatigue levels increase.
Increased vigilance is needed when snow and other weather conditions obscure surface markings and make signs difficult to use.
Surface Markings and Signs
Familiarize yourself with airport signage and markings. You can refer to appropriate sections in the AIM.
"Land and Hold Short Operations"
"Reducing Runway Incursions"
"Surface Movement Guidance and Control System"
Report confusing or deteriorating surface markings and signs, inoperative airport lighting, and inaccurate airport diagrams to the tower or airport manager.
Report any runway incursions to the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). ASRS maintains a database of reported hazards, and Alert Messages from ASRS are forwarded to appropriate airport authorities for action. Airport authorities are requested to provide responses to alert messages to ASRS as a check on the types of corrective actions being taken.
Finally, remember as a child how your parents stressed looking both ways before you crossed the street and how well that preserved your pedestrian safety. Stop, look, and listen may be equally helpful in preventing runway incursions.
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