“We're Here To Help You”


"We're Here To Help You"

The FAA's Runway Safety program is gaining momentum in the effort to reduce, if not eliminate, airport collisions and runway incursions reports Michelle Garetson

By Michelle Garetson

February 2002

Chills run up the spines of many aviation employees when the Federal Aviation Administration says, "We're here to help you." However, this time, the FAA means it.

One of the ways they're trying to help is through the offering of a variety of training materials — free of charge — for pilots, aircraft technicians, as well as ground support personnel. Videos, stickers, and reference cards offer guidance for ramps and runways in user-friendly formats and were developed as a result of the FAA's study of surface incidents and incursions involving commercial aircraft, non-commercial aircraft, military, or vehicle/pedestrians, pilots, controllers, and vehicle operators, as well as the severity of the incidents. The FAA Runway Safety Report, dated June 2001, details findings for 1997-2000. Much of this report is available at www.faa.gov/runwaysafety.

John Pallante, deputy director of the FAA's Office of Runway Safety explains that the number of incidents has increased every year.

"In 2001, at the 460 towered airports in the U.S.," says Pallante, "there were a total of 446 surface incidents and that was up from 431 incidents in 2000."

What's important to note though, is that the data shows a decrease in those incidents classified as "serious" — five to eight percent in 2001, which is down from the seven to twelve percent in 2000. For the amount of vehicles and aircraft vying for space on ramps and runways everyday, all over the world, this statistic sounds relatively small. Still, one only needs to remember the incident in October 2001 at the airport in Milan, Italy to know that one "serious" runway incursion could lead to a number of fatalities as well as substantial collateral damage.

One of the FAA's biggest challenges with collecting and analyzing incident data is that every airport has a different layout, traffic mix, and traffic flow. As such, the FAA will concentrate most of its efforts on active runways — as they present the highest probability for catastrophic events.

According to the data on the Runway Safety's website, the Southern and Western Pacific regions led the league with the most incidents recorded in 2001 with the Great Lakes region not far behind. However, no region can boast a "zero incursion" record and no one segment is immune from incidents and incursions. Small, GA aircraft and airport vehicles are just as involved in the data as are the larger, commercial and non-commercial planes.

While the data can point the FAA to those airports showing an increase in ramp and runway incidents, there is no information as to why the increase is occurring. Possible explanations such as employee turnover and lack of training have lent themselves to the creation of dashboard and sun-visor stickers for ramp vehicles that provide a quick overview of ATCT light signals, and airport signs and markings. These stickers should not take the place of proper training, but they can aid vehicle operators as a handy reference guide to keep in the vehicle.

Aviation safety should be everyone's number one priority. By availing these new safety tools for ramp and runway personnel, when the FAA says, "We're here to help you," they mean it.

To order FAA's Runway Safety materials, log on to www.faa.gov/runwaysafety or write to: Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20591.