The number of serious runway incursions at US airports has fallen significantly for the second consecutive year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's assessment of its 2010 fiscal year to the end of September.
But the fall may have been influenced by the traffic decrease caused by the economic downturn. In its 2010 economic report the Air Transport Association of America estimates that capacity fell 6.3% from 2008 to 2009 while traffic dropped 5.3%.
Traffic has started to rebound in 2010, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which estimates growth of 2.3% up to June while capacity declined 0.8%.
During fiscal year 2010, the FAA says the number of serious runway incursions year-over-year at US airports halved for the second year running, dropping from 12 to six. Of the six incursions logged in FY2010, three involved commercial aircraft, says the agency.
FAA administrator Randy Babbitt describes the figures as reflecting "a steady, significant improvement in runway safety over the last decade". The FAA estimates that, in FY2000, there were 67 serious runway incursions.
Part of the sharp drop-off stems from the FAA's efforts to improve runway safety that include installation of new technology at airports and improved signage and markings. To underscore this point, Babbitt today also announced the successful testing of a runway status lighting system at Boston's Logan airport.
The system is designed to alert pilots of potential runway incursions or collisions through a network of red lights embedded in the taxiway or runway pavement. Pilots must stop when the red lights are illuminated, and need clearance from air traffic control to cross them.
Runway status lights are deployed at Dallas-Fort Worth, San Diego and Los Angeles airports, and are scheduled for installation at 23 airports across the USA from 2011.