FAA: Runway Incursions Dropping

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The number of serious runway incursions has been dropping, the FAA said this week, and in fiscal year 2010, which ended on Sept. 30, there were just six serious incursions, half the number recorded in 2009. Overall, incursions have dropped 90 percent since fiscal year 2000. "The entire aviation community can be credited with the remarkable success achieved in runway safety," the FAA said. Since 2007, the agency has coordinated an "intense effort" to expedite the installation of new technologies at airports, conduct outreach, retrain pilots, develop better air traffic procedures, and improve airport infrastructure such as lighting, signage and markings.

A runway incursion is defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization as any unauthorized presence on a runway, regardless of whether or not an aircraft, vehicle or pedestrian presents a potential conflict to an aircraft authorized to land, take off, or taxi on a runway. Incidents are ranked in four categories determined by how narrowly a collision was avoided. The FAA has been implementing several new technologies to help minimize the risks. Red runway status lights installed in pavement help to prevent unsafe crossings at runways and taxiways. Radar-based systems provide automated alerts and warnings to controllers. Better detection technology provides controllers with a clearer picture of targets on the airport surface. Moving-map displays in the cockpit give pilots a better sense of their location on the ground. The efforts seem to be working. "Each year, runway safety continues to improve," the FAA said.