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Landing on a wrong surface is serious business and it's done about every other day. Between 2016 and 2018, there were 557 recorded wrong-surface landings/approaches, according to the FAA. Sadly, 85 percent involved GA. Don't add to the statistics; take this awareness quiz instead. Answers are on page 23.

1. Most wrong surface landings occur in--conditions.

a. IFR


c. VFR


2. Cite one condition that contributes to wrong-surface landings.

a. Airfield geometry

b. Weak eyesight

c. Briefing the wrong airport diagram

d. Snow and rain obscuring the runway

3. Wrong-airport landings are often due to

a. inattentive flight crews.

b. nearby airports with similar configurations.

c. an improper final approach waypoint entry.

d. ATC inattention.

4. This human factor can trap a pilot into a wrong surface landing.

a. Confirmation bias

b. Continuation bias

c. Expectation bias

d. Cognitive bias

5. You're landing at night on a short VFR runway closely parallel to a long IFR runway. Assure the right runway by

a. setting up an approach.

b. requesting the option for the long runway.

c. asking Tower to turn up the VFR runway lights.

d. requesting a sidestep maneuver.

6. What simple technique can save the day (or night)?

a. Purposefully look for visual cues.

b. Set the GPS to OBS mode.

c. Increase your situational awareness.

d. Turn down the cockpit lights.

7. Every landing at a tower airport is a sequence. Why?

a. The chances of miscommunication are reduced.

b. No, they are increased.

c. It's an ATC mantra.

d. To ensure safe separation given heavy air traffic.

QUIZ ANSWERS (Questions on page 19)

1. c. Like midairs, 89 percent of wrong-surface events occur when visibility exceeds three statute miles (VMC). Clearly, we need to be exercising more vigilance when in VMC on both counts.

2. a. Parallel runways with different dimensions or surface colors may be confusing. An offset runway can be some distance from the dominant runway. We yearn to line up with a closer, longer or wider runway. One aid to getting it right is that the runways might have different thresholds. Many pilots have landed on parallel taxiways especially if similar in length to the runway. Just ask Harrison Ford.

3. b. Nearby airports with similar configurations can be a trap. In 2012, a giant C-17 Globemaster III squeezed itself into Peter 0. Knight airport (KTPF), a GA airport just five miles north of MacDill AFB, an easy error since both airports have a Runway 4-22. However, KTPF's runway is about one-third the length of MacDill's.

4. c. Pilots with experience or knowledge at an airport may fall for expectation bias, which leads them to the runway they expect, not the runway assigned. This explains why a pilot can acknowledge a landing clearance to the correct runway yet still land on a wrong one. Similarly, pilots assigned rarely-used runways may have difficulty identifying the correct surface even if they often use the airport.

5. c. This really happened. The lights came up for the VFR runway. The pilot then requested returning the lights to normal.The pilot asked for something simple and received absolute confirmation of proper line-up. Never be afraid to ask. It's a lot better than making an avoidable mistake.

6. a. Visual cues include verifying right versus left runways; runway magnetic orientation; location of the VASI or PAPI; offset thresholds, and known landmarks relative to the airport or runway.

7. d. The sequence is: runway assignment; pilot's visual identification of the runway, and clearance to land on that runway. However, each phase creates opportunities for miscommunication and visual slip-ups that can lead to the aircraft arriving on the wrong surface. Such errors could cause traffic conflicts and possible collisions, which is why everyone must be on their game.
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Author:Simonds, Fred
Date:Aug 1, 2019
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