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Safety target: runway incursions: Don Cote, Procedures Specialist with NAV CANADA Air Traffic Services, provides a Canadian perspective on an ongoing incursion Prevention Action Team [IPAT] awareness campaign. (ATM).

Safety officials in the US and Canada have identified the risk associated with runway incursions as one of the most urgent issues facing the aviation community today. Studies have shown that in spite of years of professional training, pilots, airport vehicle operators, air traffic controllers and flight service specialists continue to find themselves unwittingly involved in runway incursion incidents.

Most people in the aviation industry feel they know what a runway incursion is, claiming "I know one when I see one". However, until recently, no official definition could be found within the Canada Department of Transport or NAV CANADA. By implementing recommendations from two separate studies on runway incursions, Transport Canada and NAV CANADA both adopted the following definition: Any occurrence at an airport involving the unauthorised or unplanned presence of an aircraft, vehicle, or person on the protected area of a surface designated for aircraft landings and departures.

Since 1990, four runway incursions in the US have killed 45 passengers and crew. The worst aircraft accident in history killed 583 passengers and crew when two B747s collided in fog on a runway in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, in 1977. In 1978, 38 passengers and crew were killed in Cranbrook, British Columbia, when a 737 crashed and burst into flames trying to avoid a snowplough on the runway. At a 1998 workshop on runway incursions in Washington, the Executive Director of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Safety Foundation commented on general aviation (GA) involvement by noting that while the incursions tended to involve GA aircraft in conditions of good visibility, the accidents involve commercial aircraft at night or in conditions of poor visibility. The four fatal crashes in the USA in the 1990s, and the Cranbrook and Tenerife crashes all fit this profile.

The 1987 Canadian Aviation Safety Board Special Investigation contained 28 recommendations for areas such as scanning techniques for controllers, airport signage and markings, mandatory readbacks of ATC instructions, pilot training and safety promotion. Many of the recommendations have been implemented:

* Airport signs are better now than they were 12 years ago.

* The Mandatory Frequency Order was put in place to establish mandatory communication procedures at uncontrolled aerodromes.

* Flight service specialists were given authority to provide vehicle control service.

* Direction was issued to pilots through the AIP to read back hold-short instructions.

And yet, runway incursions happen in Canada at a rate of four to five each week. Canadian and Federal Aviation Administration officials have raised the alarm respect of runway incursions and the apparent inability to stem the stead increase in the number of incursions each year. In Canada, incursions have rise steadily from 60 reported cases in 1997 to 279 in 2000.

Good analysis requires good data

Current NAV CANADA data on runway incursions comes from a variety of source and until recently it has been difficult to make year-to-year comparisons with the available data. In 1999, however, detailed statistics on runway incursions gathered by NAV CANADA enabled authorities to determine exact incursion figures an design incursion prevention strategies.

With the introduction of a common definition, Transport Canada and NAV CANADA have also adopted identical terms to classify runway incursions. The following terms are used for the classification of incursions by type:

OI: Incursions that occur as the result of actions taken by a controller or flight service specialist. Safety may have been jeopardised or less than the appropriate separation minima may have existed in these cases.

PD: Pilot deviation.

PD: Vehicle/pedestrian deviation.

What is being done to reduce the number of runway incursions?

1. Transport Canada created the Sub-Committee on Runway Incursions to study the Canadian incursion phenomenon; its final report was produced in September 2000.

2. NAV CANADA created its own incursion-prevention committee to provide senior management with recommendations for the prevention of runway incursions.

3. Daily monitoring of incursions and statistical information gathering was initiate by NAV CANADA.

4. Discussions were held across the country with local stakeholders during site visits organised by NAV CANADA.

5. A safety bulletin was issued by NAV CANADA providing controllers and flight service specialists with an incursion alert.

6. Controllers and flight service specialists received recurrent training aimed at incursion prevention.

7. Transport Canada and NAV CANADA developed separate runway incursion action plans and are working on the joint implementation of common recommendations.

The current rate and number of runway incursions is unacceptable, remaining a very serious concern for all and a risk that must be addressed. Although fewer than 15% of runway incursions are directly attributable to controllers or specialists, we know that emphasis on better scanning, position relief briefings and precise communication will help to reduce runway incursions--including those caused by pilot errors. It is also known that a significant number of pilot and vehicle deviations can be attributed to misunderstandings of control clearances, instructions and restrictions. Controllers and flight service specialists have been asked to help in several key areas:

* The readback--Many runway incursions involved incorrect or missing readbacks of hold-short instructions. It is mandatory for the controller or flight service specialist to obtain a readback of any hold or hold-short instruction.

* Ground taxi--During taxi and before take-off, pilots must go through checklists, copy clearances, enter flight management system (FMS) data, and communicate with cabin crew and dispatchers. After landing, most of the same activity goes on again. Controllers and flight service specialists should limit their attempts at communication with the aircraft during these periods unless absolutely necessary.

* Use of memory aids--Controllers have looked past cocked strips, alert strips and red lights intended to serve as defence mechanisms. Future recurrent training is expected to address this issue.

* Use of position relief checklists--The TSB described the risk of collision at another airport as "--the result of an ineffective controller hand-over procedure". Position relief briefings were also identified as causes by two other fact-finding boards and will be addressed in the next recurrent training year.

* Scanning techniques--Controllers and flight service specialists have explicit instructions to scan the runways and other controlled surfaces at all times. In addition, recurrent training will also cover this subject.

* Use of cleared-on-the-field clearances for airport service vehicles--These authorisations should be avoided. In more than one instance, the controller completely forgot about the vehicle on the runway when issuing a landing or take-off clearance to an aircraft.

A recent NAV CANADA study into runway incursions suggested that the management of the risk associated with runway incursions rests with the entire aviation community and not only the service providers such as NAV CANADA. The one recurring theme heard throughout this study was a call for a partnership between federal agencies, the aviation community and NAV CANADA.
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Publication:Airports International
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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