By Darren Shannon in Washington DC
US-registered jet aircraft will be barred from landing at any airport unable to offer at least 15% more runway length than required to land safely under the prevailing conditions, says the US Federal Aviation Administration.
However, industry body the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has criticised the FAA’s move, accusing the agency of bypassing established rule-making procedures and failing to consult operators on the proposals.
The FAA’s ruling, which will be issued on 30 June, follows the regulator’s evaluation of an incident involving a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 landing at Chicago Midway in December during a snowstorm that ended with a runway overrun and the death of a young passenger in a car travelling alongside the airport (Flight International, 20 December 2005).
“No later than 1 September 2006, turbojet operators will be required to have procedures in place to ensure that a full stop landing, with at least a 15% safety margin beyond the actual landing distance, can be made on the runway to be used, in the conditions existing at the time of arrival, and with the deceleration means and aircraft configuration that will be used,” says the FAA. Operators will have until 1 October to begin using the new procedures.
The new policy is being introduced to eliminate confusion over what runway length should be required for landing in poor weather conditions. “A review of the current applicable regulations indicates that the regulations do not specify the type of landing distance assessment that must be performed at the time of arrival, but operators are required to restrict or suspend operations when conditions are hazardous,” says the FAA.
The agency adds that take-off weight limitations and a 15% safety margin for wet runway landings do exist under current rules.
An internal FAA review of airline practices showed that current procedures compound landing problems. The agency says that about 50% of all US operators do not have a runway-condition assessment policy. Of those that do, some do not account for runway surfaces or reduced braking and many operators do not build a safety margin into their landing assessments.
The FAA also says that manufacturers do not have a standardised method for providing landing distance data, and that the current regulations give operators too much power to determine their safety margin.
NATA says the FAA’s notice “establishes a new regulatory requirement, bypassing the required rulemaking process, and is therefore unacceptable...the FAA does not adequately explain why formal rulemaking was not conducted”.
The organisation is also “disappointed that the agency did not solicit comments from the affected industry”.