Can technology kill the most common airline accident?

In the last 25 years there have been 1,020 runway overruns by airliners or business jets.

Most overruns were non-fatal, but they were highly damaging, expensive, and shocking to passengers. Many, however, were fatal, and a total of 1,082 people died in them.

Airbus has invented and developed a system – the runway overrun prevention system (ROPS) – that could have the same effect on runway overrun accidents as Honeywell’s invention of the EGPWS had on controlled flight into terrain disasters. EGPWS has virtually eliminated CFIT for aircraft fitted with it.

Already more than 60% of the A380 fleet are fitted with ROPS, and it can be retrofitted to the rest of the fleet – all its types – starting next year. It’s a software upgrade.


Thumbnail image for A380 landing.jpgImagine what an A380 overrun would cost. Is it worth the risk?

This could be a serious product differentiator for Airbus, because it has patented the system, and although Honeywell has a software upgrade for its EGPWS which provides some very useful assistance to pilots in reducing the risk of runway accidents, it does not come close to offering the comprehensive protection ROPS provides.

But Airbus has decided not to keep ROPS to itself, because runway overruns cost the industry as a whole too much in damaged aircraft and damaged reputation. So the manufacturer has just announced that it’s offering ROPS commercially to competitors.

Two years ago at Toulouse I took a trip in an A380 and saw ROPS operating live. I was seriously impressed. If you want to see for yourself how ROPS works, Here is the fully illustrated blog I wrote following the trip

2 Responses to Can technology kill the most common airline accident?

  1. John 3 June, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    After the Air France accident I thought the title was being sarcastic.

  2. alloycowboy 9 June, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Wouldn’t the next step in the evolution of the ROPS system be to incorparate a braking chute for when you don’t have enough airspeed to try a go around and the ROPS system has determined that the runway is to short?