Passengers flying in the US are now considered less likely to be involved in runway collisions at US airports, even though there were more runway debris incidents in the past 12 months than during the previous year, according to newly-issued data.
The US FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) detailed 12 serious runways incursions for the past 12 months – 13 less than in fiscal 2008. Commercial airliners figured in two of these – seven less than before. Meanwhile, over 950 minor incursions took place – an increase over the previous year.
Runway incursions take place when aircraft or airport vehicles move into positions where they could comprise the safety of other aircraft/vehicles. Investigators, safety analysts and regulators alike have been studying the issue of runway safety for some time now, due to the crowded and complex nature of the network of runways and taxiways that large aircraft traverse on a day-to-day basis.
Two years ago, the GAO (Government Accountability Office) issued a report in which it rated the prospect of a “catastrophic runway collision” as “high”. This, it said, was linked to ineffective airport regulation, technology that wasn’t working to its full potential and ATC (Air Traffic Control) workers being stretched too far. The report was issued in a light of a whole raft of near airport collisions that had taken place at US airports in 2007, but the FAA has looked to draft in improvements across the board since then.
The administration has urged for tighter communications between aircraft and Air Traffic Control to avoid runway incursions and, according to one official, its calls have been answered. “US runways have never been safer”, J. Randolph Babbitt, stated, adding: “We intensified the focus, and it's absolutely working.”
A new runway lighting system is being implemented at airports across the nation. Known as Runway Status Lights, the system indicates potentially dangerous situations to moving aircraft.
Runway Status Lights is being rolled out along with another new type of airport safety technology - Airport Surface Detection Equipment. This gives ATC workers the ability to follow the progress across an airport of airliners and vehicles alike.