Thursday, August 16, 2007

FAA plans for runway safety improvements

FAA logoThe U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is very concerned with the recent spate of close calls at U.S. airports, and rightly so. In an effort to address these serious aviation safety risks, a meeting was convened yesterday among more than 40 aviation leaders from airlines, airports, air traffic control and pilot unions, aerospace manufacturers, and the FAA to discuss ways to enhance safety during ground operation of aircraft, and in particular, to reduce the risk of runway incursions and wrong runway departures.

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey asked the meeting participants to consider solutions in four areas:
  • cockpit procedures
  • airport signage and markings
  • air traffic procedures
  • technology
A Fact Sheet about the meeting, issued today by the FAA, lists a five-point short-term plan arrived at by the meeting participants:
  1. Within 60 days, teams of FAA, airport operators, and airlines will begin safety reviews at the airports where wrong runway departures and runway incursions are the greatest concern. The FAA is compiling the list of 20 to 30 airports based on a variety of safety risk factors, including the record of past incursions.
  2. Within 60 days, disseminate information and training across the entire aviation industry.
  3. Within 60 days, accelerate the deployment of improved airport signage and markings at the top 75 airports, well ahead of the June 2008 mandated deadline.
  4. Within 60 days, review cockpit procedures and air traffic control (ATC) clearance procedures. This may include changing cockpit procedures to minimize pilot activities and distractions while an aircraft is moving on the ground and to make ATC instructions more precise.
  5. Implement a voluntary self-reporting system for all air traffic organization safety personnel, such as air traffic controllers and technicians.
The Fact Sheet also says that "Mid- and long-term goal areas are being pursued to address maximizing situational awareness, minimizing pilot distractions, and eliminating runway incursions using procedures and technology."

Safety during ground operations has been compromised all too frequently in recent months, not just in the United States, but at airports around the world. Here is a sampling of runway accidents and safety incidents that I have written about in this blog, just since the beginning of 2007:
That list represents some of the more well-publicized incidents. Unfortunately there have been many, many more.