December 13, 2007
Pilots Support Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s Recommendations
Air France accident highlights need for swift action to require Runway End Safety Areas
OTTAWA—The final report of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) on the Aug. 2, 2005, Air France runway overrun at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport highlights many of the major air safety priorities of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA). The Board’s actions are encouraging, but only if they lead to change.
“This accident pinpoints a major risk at all of Canada’s airports—the lack of runway end safety areas, or RESAs, that meet international standards,” says Capt. Robert Perkins, chairman of ALPA’s Airport and Ground Environment Group. “Pilots have been calling for the installation of RESAs for years. It’s time for the Canadian government to take every action possible to prevent any future accidents by adhering to the Board’s recommendations and the standards and recommended practices set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.”
If an airliner is unable to stop normally before the end of the runway due to mechanical, weather, or other operational problems, a RESA serves as the last line of defense to prevent catastrophe.
“Runway safety areas have proven their worth time and again and could have mitigated the Air France accident,” continues Perkins. “RESAs are not required by law at any of Canada’s airports because the government has not yet adopted ICAO standards for them. We are aware of ongoing efforts to adopt the ICAO standard, and ALPA urges the government to expedite that initiative. All of our runways should have safety areas at least as long as the ICAO Recommendation of 300 meters (1,000 feet). If airports don’t have the room, arrestor bed systems, which have proven very effective in stopping overruns, should be installed at the runway ends,” Perkins concludes.
The TSB’s recommendations also discussed the absence of a means to ensure that water does not contaminate a runway during a heavy downpour. “Grooved runways are an excellent means of accomplishing this,” says Perkins. “Additionally, pilots need to have more accurate information about real-time runway conditions to make critical, split-second decisions. And we need performance data based on actual flight tests to know how our aircraft will stop in all runway conditions.”
are required to provide landing performance data for only dry surfaces based on
actual flight tests. However, for other- than-dry surface conditions,
performance data are derived mathematically. Runway performance data must be
validated through actual testing. ALPA believes that Transport Canada must
require manufacturers to provide this data to airlines and that they must be
Currently, runway friction assessments reports are unreliable on surfaces most in need of accurate measurements such as standing water, slush, and wet snow. An airliner’s ability to be dispatched to a wet runway is determined analytically, while no means to actually assess runway conditions at the time of arrival exists. Only four runways in Canada today have any grooving of the runway surface, and three of those are at military airfields.
“This wasn’t the first airplane to end up in this ravine; in June 1978, an Air Canada DC-9 also overran a runway,” says Capt. Terry McVenes, executive air safety chairman of ALPA. “Like the Air France accident, the plane was heavily damaged. We need to stop relying on luck—Transport Canada and airport operators need to learn from the Air France tragedy and take every action possible to prevent future accidents like it.”
“One positive outcome from this accident was a demonstration of TSB’s enlightened approach to accident investigation—avoiding the ‘blame game’ and concentrating on sound recommendations—is a model for 21st century accident investigation,” adds McVenes. “The TSB investigation clearly demonstrates that a range of causal factors contributed to the accident. Now we must work to take critical steps forward to address all of those factors and enhance safety.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA represents more than 60,000 pilots at 42 airlines in Canada and the U.S. Visit the ALPA website at http://www.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACTS: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, 703-481-4440