A US Federal Aviation Administration mandate that would have restricted domestic operators from landing at some shorter runways has been suspended a month before it was due to be implemented, writes Darren Shannon.

The operational specification, which from 1 October was to stop US airliners from landing at any airport unable to offer at least 15% more runway than required to land safely under the prevailing conditions, has been replaced by another regulatory procedure after operators and industry bodies argued against the FAA's attempt to use operational guidance to change policy.

A notice of proposed rulemaking will instead be issued, although the FAA says no deadline has been set for this procedure. The regulator has issued a strongly worded safety alert for operators (SAFO) in the interim, advising voluntary compliance with the proposed landing margin.

The FAA's margins came in response to the overrun of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 at Chicago Midway last December during a snowstorm. Procedures used to calculate the safety parameters of such a landing were questioned in the resulting investigation. The SAFO "urgently recommends that operators of turbojet airplanes develop procedures for flight crews to assess landing performance based on conditions actually existing at time of arrival, as distinct from conditions presumed at time of dispatch.

"Once the actual landing distance is determined an additional safety margin of at least 15% should be added. Except under emergency conditions flight crews should not attempt to land on runways that do not meet the assessment criteria and safety margins."

Source: Flight International