March 27, 2007
Preventing Runway Incursions Isn’t Hit-or-Miss
FAA and Congress Need to Act
WASHINGTON, D.C.—A new report from the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) details the potential risk of aircraft collisions on the nation’s runways and charts a course that, with Congressional and FAA leadership, will safeguard passengers, crew, and cargo.
“Airport runways and taxiways are growing more congested and complex as we scramble to increase capacity in the nation’s air transportation system,” says Capt. Mitchell Serber, ALPA Airport Ground Environment Group chairman. “Pilots need the best technology possible to provide them with accurate information about their location, especially during construction or poor weather.”
“To prevent runway incursions, a layered approach that includes multiple information sources gives airline pilots the best opportunity to increase their situational awareness on a runway or taxiway,” continues Serber. The report was released in conjunction with ALPA’s presentation at today’s National Transportation Safety Board Runway Incursion Forum, held in Washington, D.C.
One of the most important ways to reduce the risk of runway accidents is to install an advanced tracking system that enables pilots to see their location on the airport environment. Airport surface detection equipment model X, known as ASDE-X, uses multi-sensor data surveillance systems to track airborne and ground traffic. In addition, improved signs and markings, runway status lights, and enhanced training and communication are all positive actions that will help protect passengers, crew, and cargo from runway incursions.
“While runway incursions are a serious hazard, we know exactly what it will take to solve the problem: joint leadership and action from Congress, the FAA, airline management, airport operators, and pilots,” continues Serber. “We’ve virtually eliminated other types of major aviation accidents using this same powerful approach, so we know that it’s our best bet for ending runway incursions, too.”
Ingenious technology, combined with political will and budgetary resources, has made two of the deadliest types of aviation accidents virtually obsolete. Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents once caused hundreds of casualties during the era when airline pilots relied solely on radar, charts, and ground visual references to maintain adequate clearance from the ground in low visibility and darkness. The advent of the ground proximity warning system dramatically reduced ground collision accidents. Similarly, the traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS) has slashed the number of mid-air collisions and saved many lives.
“The FAA’s recent pledge to develop streamlined guidance to allow broader use of electronic flight bags with moving map and ‘own ship’ display is extremely encouraging,” concludes Serber. “But we need Congress and the FAA to take the next step and provide the impetus and the funding to safeguard the nation’s runways and taxiways.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA represents 60,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at http://www.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACTS: Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, 703-481-4440