Runway Incursions Which Lead to Accidents Research Paper

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Runway Incursions That Lead to Accidents

The objective of this study is to examine runway incursions that lead to accidents such as the Tenerife airport disaster, U.S. airways Flight 149, Madrid Runway Disaster and Madrid Runway disaster as well as Linate Airport disaster. Toward this end, this study will examine the literature in this area of inquiry which includes such as the 'Runway Incursion Joint Safety Analysis Team' (JSAT) report; the International Civil Aviation Organization 'Manual on the Prevention of Runway Incursions', as well as other pertinent and relevant studies. This study will attempt to disseminate the available information on prevention of runway incursion and to report on the same in the findings of this study.


Runway incursion accidents that involve general aviation aircraft and air carriers are reported to be a rare occurrence. Landsberg (1998) reports that in 1994 "A Cessna Conquest II taxied onto the wrong runway in St. Louis and was flattened by a TWA airliner on a night takeoff. A Beech King Air was not clear of a runway in Atlanta when it was struck by a Boeing 727 in the early 1990s. The granddaddy of all runway incursion accidents was in Tenerife when two loaded Boeing 747s collided in the fog" (p.1) Landsberg additionally reports that the FAA "…has become very interested in runway incursions recently because GA pilot deviations are on the rise and have been for several years. The most recent numbers show an increase of almost 19% from 1995 to 1996; deviations are up almost 30% from the prior eight-year average. It would be comforting to report that GA flight operations are also up, but according to the FAA, they have not increased significantly. According to the inspector general of the Department of Transportation, GA is responsible for roughly 71% of the aircraft incursions, yet accounts for only 59% of the flight operations at towered airports." (1998, p.1) General Aviation aircraft are reported to be responsible for more runway incursions than are other aircraft, however historically air carriers have had more runway incursion related accidents." (Landsberg, 1998, p.1) Landsberg reports that the primary cause of the General Aviation pilot incursions was "inadequate knowledge or experience with ATC procedures and language. The second most identified problem was inadequate knowledge or experience with the airport. (1998, p.1) According to Landsberg, the reason that runway incursions must be addressed during both initial and recurrent training includes: (1) Taxi operations and radio procedures are also spelled out for testing in the Private Pilot Practical Test Standards; (2. There will probably be a higher level of enforcement action directed toward runway incursions; and (3) Additionally, in the very unfortunate event of a GA-airline collision where GA is at fault, there could easily be severe restrictions placed on our flight activities." (Landsberg, 1998, p.1)

GAO Report

A GAO report published in 2006 entitled "Progress on Reducing Runway Incursions Impeded by Leadership, Technology, and Other Challenges" states Recent data indicate that runway incursions, which are precursors to aviation accidents, are growing. Although the number and rate of incursions declined after reaching a peak in fiscal year 2001 and remained relatively constant for the next 5 years, they show a recent upward trend. From fiscal year, 2006 through fiscal year 2007, the number, and rate of incursions increased by 12% and both were nearly as high as their 2001 peak. Furthermore, the number of serious incursions -- where collisions are narrowly or barely avoided -- increased from 2 during the first quarter of fiscal year 2007 to 10 during the same quarter in fiscal year 2008.Runway Incursions which lead to accidents." (p.1) The GAO report goes on to state, "Most runway incursions involve general aviation aircraft. According to FAA, 72% of incursions from fiscal years 2003 through 2006 involved at least one general aviation aircraft. However, about one-third of the most serious incursions from fiscal years 2002 through 2007 -- about 9 per year -- involved at least one commercial aircraft that can carry many passengers. That number includes two serious incursions that occurred just two months ago, in December 2007." ( p.6) It is reported that a Transport Canada Report published in September 2000 states that there are various factors responsible for the growth in runway incursions. Stated to be among those reasons are the following: (1) increases in traffic volume results in runway incursion being more likely when "capacity enhancing procedures are in effect than when they are not"; (2) if traffic is unchanged the chance for a runway incursion is enhanced when "capacity-enhancing procedures are put into operation"; (3) more complex aerodrome layout combined with lack of aerodrome standards in design, signage, markings and lighting "has worsened the situation as well as have the "lack of standard taxi routes"; (4) environment pressure increases works toward compromise of safe air traffic control (ATC) practices through the requirement of many changes in configuration. (Transport Canada, 2000p.1)

International Civil Aviation Organization Report

Reported as common scenarios in which runway incursions are known to occur are the following: (1) crossing landing aircraft path by aircraft or vehicle; (2) aircraft/vehicle crossing path of aircraft taking off; (3) runway-holding position marketing crossed by aircraft or vehicle; (4) inadvertent enter into active runway by aircraft or vehicle unsure of its position; and (5) communications breakdown resulting in failure to follow air-traffic control instruction. (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2007) Communication factors resulting in runway incursions include the use of phraseology that is nonstandard; failure of readback of instruction accuracy on the part of pilot or driver of vehicle; (3) controller's failure to ensure that the readback given conforms with issues clearance; misunderstanding of instructions of controller by pilot or vehicle operator; transmissions blocked fully or in part; and complex and lengthy transmissions. (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2007) Reported as common scenarios in which runway incursions are known to occur are the following: (1) crossing landing aircraft path by aircraft or vehicle; (2) aircraft/vehicle crossing path of aircraft taking off; (3) runway-holding position marketing crossed by aircraft or vehicle; (4) inadvertent enter into active runway by aircraft or vehicle unsure of its position; and (5) communications breakdown resulting in failure to follow air-traffic control instruction. (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2007) Pilot related airway incursion factors are inclusive of signage and markings being inadequate, instructions issued by controllers as the aircraft is rolling out following landing during a time when cockpit noise is extremely high and pilot workload very heavy; head down tasks performed by pilots which are mandatory but which reduce awareness of the situation; capacity enhancement procedures resulting in pilots being pressed and rushing; complex airport designs requiring runways to be crossed; information that is incomplete and non-standard on taxi routing; and finally, last minute changes by ATC in taxi and departure routings. (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2007) Cited as air traffic control factors are: aircraft, runway closure, vehicle on the runway, clearance that had been issued failing to anticipate the required "separation or miscalculation of the impending separation or inadequate coordination between controllers, a cross clearance issued by ground instead of air/tower controller, aircraft misidentification on location, controller failure to give correct readback on another controller's instructions; controller failure to ensure that the pilot readback conforms with issued clearance and finally, communication errors, too lengthy instructions, use of non-standard terms and reaction time reduced due to on-the-job-training. (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2007) Cited as other common factors that can be attributed to air traffic control factors are those of distraction, workload, experience level, inadequate training, lack of clear sight lie from control tower, human-machine interface, and handover between controllers being incorrect or inadequate. (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2007) Cited as well are airside vehicle driver factors such as failure to obtain runway clearance and comply with ATC instructions and aerodrome design factors including airport layout complexity, insufficient spacing between parallel runways; departure taxiways that fail to intersect active runways at right angles; and no end-loop perimeter taxiways to avoid runway crossings." (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2007) Briefing checklists are cited in the International Civil Aviation Organization report that include the need to conduct a briefing for flight crew members and to become familiarized with the aerodrome as well as plan timing and execution of checklists, review NOTAMs, ensure that the flight crew fully understand all departure briefing items, ensure that the briefing on the assigned taxi route is as thorough as that of the instrument approach, and ensure that the aerodrome diagram is readily available to all flight crew members." International Civil Aviation Organization, 2007)

Williams (2008)

Williams (2008) investigates such accidents and states that there are findings that show the following specific factors to blame for runway incursions:

(1) multiple entry points used increasing the risk of runway incursions since more points for possible conflict of traffic result as well as workload increases for aerodrome controllers;

(2) Risks are increased further by use of angled taxiways for entry into runway, which limits the view of the pilot on the threshold of the…

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