Runway Incursion Prevention A Full-Time Job

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The FAA needs to constantly review its programs to prevent runway incursions, rather than react to periodic spikes in their frequency, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General says in a report. The OIG reviewed the frequency and severity of incursions at major hubs over the last eight years and discovered that when the numbers go up, the FAA takes action. However, in the absence of any upward trend, the agency seems content with the status quo, even though potentially disastrous incursions continue to occur. “Compared to five years ago, FAA has made significant progress in reducing runway incursion incidents,” the report says. “However, the serious risks associated with runway incursions underscore the need for maintaining vigilant oversight and a proactive approach for preventing severe incidents.” The OIG says investigators of incursion incidents in which pilot error is to blame need to get into the pilots’ heads and find out how they made the wrong turn or missed the controller’s directions. The report says that information needs to be shared to help prevent those kinds of errors. Likewise with controllers, the report says, the FAA needs to be on top of human-factors training issues that contribute to incursions. The report also says the FAA leadership has cut back on the resources it puts into runway safety programs now that it has met its targets for reducing the number of incidents and recommends that all “lines of business” in the FAA include measures for reducing incursions as part of their annual plan.