Runway Incursions

Bruce Mayes

Recently I had an experience which reminded me of the importance of runway incursion prevention. I was cleared to land on runway 4L at HNL and a heavy 777 was 3 mile final for runway 4R. Immediately after landing, with the tailwheel still in the air, the air traffic controller directed I turn on taxiway E and hold short of 4R. Ignoring the ageless adage, Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, I elected to communicate first and replied I would hold short. As the tailwheel settled to the pavement and I was doing the “2-step” on the rudder pedals in response to the gusty trades, I heard the controller repeat instructions to turn into the taxiway and hold short of the parallel runway. I replied again I would hold short, but could tell my transmission was blocked by another.
Then the controller, sounding a bit more flustered, simply stated “Hold your position”. Now I was unsure if she wanted me to clear the runway and turn into the previously cleared taxiway or hold on the runway as I was still on the centerline. I replied that I was clearing the runway at E and would hold short of runway 4R and that it was my third call. I was stopped and holding short when I heard her direct the heavy 777 to go around. I could just hear the four-striper in his best Captain voice telling the Waikiki-bound tourists that “some little guy was blocking the runway and they would have to go out and try it again”. I told the controller that I was holding short of 4R and that it was my fourth call. Once cleared to cross runway 4R and taxiing to parking, the ground controller admonished me to reply to all hold short instructions and that I was responsible for a heavy 777 having to go around. I told him that I had responded to the hold short instructions four times. I am sure if they replayed the tapes; it would reveal I did not use my call sign on the first call as I was busy landing the aircraft, the blocking of calls on the frequency by all involved and poor listening by all. We are nearing the 38th anniversary of the worst runway incursion disaster in history when PanAm 747 and KLM 747 collided on the Spanish island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. Runway incursion prevention requires all parties to the aviation party work as a team to keep aircraft from swapping paint, or worse. The FAA publishes the Runway Safety Report and offers details on the number, cause and prevention of Runway Incursions. The latest information was published for the 2013-2014 period. According to the ICAO definition that FAA adopted in 2007, a Runway Incursions is any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and takeoff of aircraft. By adopting this new definition the FAA reclassified certain events that would have been determined to be “surface incidents” as Runway Incursions. One result of this reclassification was an increase in reported Runway Incursions (Figure 1).
Runway Incursions are classified by type, typically falling into one of three categories: Operational Incidents (OIs), Pilot Deviations (PDs), or Vehicle/Pedestrian Deviations (V/PDs). These classifications allow mitigation strategies to be developed by the appropriate FAA organization. Runway Incursion Severity Rating A - A serious incident in which a collision was narrowly avoided. B – An incident in which separation decreased and there is a significant potential for collision, which may result in a time critical corrective/ evasive response to avoid a collision. C - An incident characterized by ample time and/ or distance to avoid a collision. D - Incident that meets the definition of Runway Incursion, such as incorrect presence of a single vehicle/ person/aircraft on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft but with no immediate safety consequences. Types of Surface Events Operational Incident - A surface event attributed to ATC action or inaction. Pilot Deviation - Action of a pilot that violates any federal aviation regulation. Example: A pilot crosses a runway without a clearance while enroute to an airport gate. Vehicle/Pedestrian Deviations - Any entry or movement on the movement area or safety area by a vehicle (including aircraft operated by a non-pilot or an aircraft being towed) or pedestrian that has not been authorized by ATC. According to FAA figures, the Pacific Region has the highest number of all types of Runway Incursions. Included in the sector are Honolulu and other airports within Hawaii.

Pilot Training and Outreach

FAA’s Flight Standards collaborates with key safety groups to reach as many pilots as possible with the runway safety message. This collaboration provides training material that addresses current runway safety issues. In FY2013, Flight Standards Service updated appropriate pilot Practical Test Standards with required testing tasks on Runway Incursion avoidance during pilot certification. Pending updates to FAA Order 8900.1 (9/13/07), Flight Standards Information Management System will finalize the Runway Incursion remedial training program and a remedial training syllabus and make it available through to assist GA pilots in avoiding Runway Incursions. To support this effort, the FAA provides DPE initial training in Oklahoma City at least two times during the year, training more than 50 DPEs yearly. When finalized, pilots contributing to Runway Incursions would be required, in certain cases, to complete mandatory remedial training with either a DPE for a Category A or B Runway Incursion, or a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) recommended by the FAA Safety Team (FAAST) for a Category C Runway Incursion. Flight Standards has also published a new chapter, Runway Incursion Avoidance, in the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. Additionally, Flight Standards updated Advisory Circular 120-74B Part 121, 125, and 135 Flightcrew Procedures during Taxi Operations (7/30/12) and Advisory Circular 91-73B Parts 91 and 135 Single Pilot, Flight School Procedures during Taxi Operations (7/30/12), directed at aircraft with flight crews, single pilots and flight school operators to address procedures and knowledge needed to avoid Runway Incursions.

The FAA “Taxi Test” was produced by the Runway Safety Group and FAAST and viewed on FAASTeamTV. This 60-minute video provides a comprehensive look at runway safety best practices including a review of signs, markings, and lighting and describes scenarios where particular caution must be observed while taxiing. To date, over 12,500 people have viewed this presentation.

AOPA Online Training

The AOPA online runway safety course is a comprehensive training and examination available to both AOPA members and non-members. The course includes:

  • An in-depth guide to airport signs, pavement markings and lighting
  • Re-creations of several real-life runway incidents and accidents
  • Valuable real-world insights from air traffic controllers
  • Best practices for communication at towered and nontowered

The course continues to present a multitude of interactive exercises to help pilots hone their surface safety skills. It also provides airmen with a thorough review of every aspect of runway safety. To date, more than 20,000 pilots have completed the course and passed the quiz. An updated course was completed and available in January 2015.

Hot Spots

ICAO defines a hot spot as “a location on an aerodrome movement area with a history or potential risk of collision or Runway Incursion, and where heightened attention by pilots and drivers is necessary.” Identifying hot spots makes it easier for users of an airport to plan the safest possible path of movement. Hot spots also call attention to potentially confusing airport areas so pilots can exercise extra care.

Planning is a crucial safety activity for airport users, both pilots and air traffic controllers alike. By making sure that aircraft surface movements are planned and properly coordinated with air traffic control, pilots add another layer of safety to their flight preparations. Proper planning helps avoid confusion by eliminating last-minute questions and building familiarity with known problem areas.

Honolulu International Airport– Hot Spots

Kahului Airport – Hot Spots

Lihue Airport – No Hot Spots

Hilo Airport – No Hot Spots

Kona Airport – No Hot Spots

Runway Incursion Prevention Measures

  • Review expected taxi route and restrictions
  • Display and use airport diagram – Hot Spots
  • Taxi “heads up” – do not perform other duties while taxiing
  • Observe “sterile cockpit” rules – only perform taxi duties
  • Turn on nav / recognition lights on ground
  • Approaching active runway(s)
    • Monitor tower frequency
    • Read back all hold short clearances 
  • Entering / Crossing active runway(s) Verify entrance onto active runway
    • Visually scan approach and departure areas of runway
    •  Vocalize “clear right, clear left” Confirm runway / compass heading Turn on lights
  • Position and Hold
    • Listen for reason to hold
    • Contact ATC if hold time is extended
  • Traffic Pattern
    • Maintain visual scan for conflict traffic
    • Watch for unannounced traffic

Situational Awareness

  • Know your location and your destination location
  • Monitor weather for reduced visibility
  • Watch for other traffic – monitor radio
  • Ensure ATC clearance is understood before moving

Three Words to Prevent Incursions:

  • Unable
  • Standby
  • Progressive

Known 'Best Practices' for AIRFIELD SAFETY - Pilots

  1. Encourage use of correct terminology and proper voice
  2. Eliminate distractions in the operational
  3. Obtain and use airport diagrams. Use the FAA runway safety website to find airport diagrams for all
  4. Conduct “Clearing Turns” prior to entering ANY
  5. Maintain a sterile cockpit when
  6. Maintain appropriate Taxi
  7. Encourage pilots to have their “eyes out” when
  8. Encourage pilots to have a “heads up” policy when
  9. Attend safety seminars and programs on RUNWAY
  10. Improve safety by teaching, advocating, stressing and understanding situational awareness.
  11. Customize RUNWAY SAFETY presentations for targeted audiences such as pilot organizations, safety seminars, airport authorities,
  12. Cite specific airport RUNWAY SAFETY web
  13. Distribute RUNWAY SAFETY materials to every aviation
  14. Package and distribute runway safety materials to: Flight Schools, Flight Safety International, Maintenance Centers, Aircraft Manufacturers,
  15. Realize that every airport is unique and presents its own set of RUNWAY SAFETY challenges.
  16. Stay alert; stay
  17. Declare war on errors; make it everyone’s responsibility.

Everyone must work together diligently to prevent runway incursions.

Be Safe!!

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