US FAA safety executives are cautiously optimistic that they are finally turning the tide of runway incursions, after new figures revealed a dramatic drop in incidents.
Reported incursions have fallen 17% in the last seven months, compared with the same period last year, giving the FAA cause to believe that its high-profile Runway Safety Programme is beginning to show results.
Runway incursions have soared 75% since 1993, to more than 300 per year, despite the implementation of two action plans to reduce them. Mounting concern drove the FAA to raise significantly the internal status of its Runway Safety Programme last year, placing it directly under the auspices of its Air Traffic Services division.
Early results of the programme appear promising, the FAA says: "While it is too soon to discern a long-term trend, some favourable trends are already beginning to emerge."
This week the FAA is unveiling an additional package of strategies to reduce further the number of incidents, including an effective amnesty on pilots involved in incursions.
Under the one-year initiative, the FAA wants to encourage pilots to discuss their experiences with safety inspectors, in an effort to understand root causes. In return, says the FAA, it will "only take administrative action against the pilot when necessary".
The FAA is also to set up a series of regional meetings over the next three months, bringing together airlines, airports, air traffic controllers, pilots and other aviation organisations to develop additional measures.
These meetings will culminate in a national summit, to be held in June, where the results of the regional sessions will be discussed alongside a review of human factors and technological efforts.