Release #06.028
June 19, 2006

Better Runway Data Will Put the Brakes on Hazardous Landings

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Capt. Terry McVenes, Executive Air Safety Chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l, issued the following statement after the first day of the public hearing on the Southwest Flight 1248 accident. The accident occurred on December 8, 2005 when an aircraft skidded off of runway 31C at Chicago’s Midway Airport.

“Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 ended in a terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to all those involved. The legacy of this, and of all transportation accidents, must be to learn all we can to enhance aviation safety.

“The FAA should encourage all aircraft manufacturers to quickly develop stopping performance data for both takeoff and landing on wet runways, and those contaminated with snow, ice or slush.

“Also, the FAA must develop a standard method of describing and reporting runway surface conditions and how they impact an aircraft’s ability to stop. Once we have accurate and consistent information, pilots need to receive it in the cockpit quickly and in an easy-to-use format.

“Pilots are given guidance on evaluating in-flight icing and turbulence conditions, yet inadequate FAA guidance exists on how to evaluate braking action. Pilots need to have specific criteria to assist them in making accurate braking action assessments.

“Snow, ice and slush pose safety hazards at airports across the nation throughout the year, but the situation is particularly serious during the winter months. All airports must remain vigilant about federal guidelines that call for expeditiously clearing runways, high speed turnoffs, and taxiways.

“Finally, to keep passengers, crew and cargo safe, airports must meet federal standards or equivalent levels of safety for runway safety areas. The FAA estimates that 45 percent of U.S. airport runways must be improved with regard to runway safety areas.

“We know what it will take to make the airports safer. Airports can remove obstacles and level ground around the runway to create runway safety areas; reclaim a portion of the existing runway to be used as a runway safety area; or install crushable concrete to bring an aircraft to a quick but controlled stop. The crushable concrete, known as an Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS), is already enhancing safety on a number of runways in the country. EMAS works as well during snow, ice or slush as it does in dry conditions.

“ALPA has long advocated for these safety enhancements. Putting these measures in place will help ensure we continue to make this nation’s air transportation system as safe as possible.”

ALPA represents 61,000 airline pilots at 39 airlines in the U.S. and Canada.

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ALPA CONTACTS: Linda Shotwell, Jeff Orschel, (703) 481-4440,