Europe takes action over runway excursions

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Eurocontrol has just published a comprehensive action plan to reduce the risk of runway overruns and excursions, the most common of all aviation accidents, accounting for around a third of incidents.

According to International Civil Aviation Organisation figures, runway excurisions account for around 33% of all commercial air transport accidents, and while most other kinds of incidents have been reducing over the last 20 years, excursions have not responded to action taken so far.

Eurocontrol's report makes clear that there is no quick fix for this phenomenon, and that solving it requires action across the entire aviation system. While excursions and overruns might, at first glance, look like a simple issue for pilots to resolve, Eurocontrol makes clear that the solution is multidisciplinary, taking in airline management, airport operators, air navigation service providers, air traffic controllers, meteorologists and aircraft manufacturers.

A central tenet of the action plan is for airports to set up local Runway Safety Teams containing representatives of all those disciplines to review the preparedness of staff and systems.

The report blows away many preconceptions, revealing that although a wet runway increases the risk of excursion, most events occur on dry runways. It points out that crew preparedness for managing a safe take-off or landing depends on the crew being well briefed on runway operational status, surface contamination state, and precise weather conditions, so all this information must not only be available and current, but the crews must access it and brief themselves well.

The report reminds pilots that a timely go-around from an unstabilised approach can avoid an overrun, as can the decision to continue a take-off rather than reject it beyond the V1 decision speed.

Eurocontrol adds: "Whilst technology is undoubtedly part of the solution, training on unfamiliar situations that may lead to runway excursions is key to their prevention."

Tony Licu, head of Eurocontrol's Safety Unit, says: "Rigorous and realistic training scenarios will better prepare operational staff to cope with decisions to go around or reject a take-off and lead to the execution of the correct and safe manoeuvres."