Thursday, November 16, 2006

Runway incidents on the rise at U.S. airports

While near collisions on airport runways are very rare -— about one for every 2 million takeoffs and landings -- the number of high-risk runway incidents rose to 31 in fiscal 2006, up from 29 in 2005 and 28 in 2004.

A USA Today article, commenting on this year's NTSB Most Wanted List of aviation safety enhancements, quotes National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Mark Rosenker on the issue of runway close-calls: "It's unacceptable. We've been running on luck for far too long." As an example, Rosenker cites an incident in Chicago on July 23, 2006 when two jets missed each other by 35 feet.

For its part, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it is pursuing new technologies that will help reduce the danger. According to FAA Deputy Administrator Bobby Sturgell:
The agency is testing lights embedded in runways that flash red to warn pilots when another plane gets too close. A navigation system expected in planes by 2014 will allow pilots to track other planes on the ground, Sturgell said.

"All of this demonstrates that the FAA is aggressively attacking the problem," he said.

Sturgell cautioned that the solutions are costly and the agency needs time to fully test them before they are put into the field.
Source: Runway incidents rise for 2nd year - USA Today

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