Sixty days after launching its "Runway Safety Call to Action", the US Federal Aviation Administration says "significant" short-term actions to improve safety at US airports are complete or under way.

The improvements come amid an already decreasing number of serious incursions. According to the FAA, the fiscal year 2007 tally for category A and B incursions, the most serious events, decreased to 24 from 31 in 2006.

To counter a spate of serious runway incursions, including an incident on 11 July in which a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 came close to colliding with a United Airlines Airbus A320 at Fort Lauderdale airport, the agency on 21 August announced five short-term strategies it planned to pursue with industry.

Two of the efforts, a review of 20 airports with problematic runway incursion and "wrong runway" incidents and a review of air traffic controller-issued clearances to pilots, have been completed and the others are well under way, says Bobby Sturgell, the interim FAA Administrator.

As part of the airport review, an FAA-industry team "looked at everything we could" to identify "subtle risks" like confusing or missing signage, says Hank Krakowski, the FAA's newly appointed Chief Operating Officer. Krakowski, formerly a pilot and vice president of flight operations for United, said airports are currently addressing the issues uncovered during the reviews.

Results of the controller clearance study were to be presented to stakeholders late last week, indicating that results showed that pilots needed "more explicit" taxi instructions from controllers. Safety advocates, including the US National Transportation Safety Board, have asked that the FAA require controllers to clear an aircraft to cross each runway it passes en route to its take-off position or terminal gate point, rather than issue a blanket approval for an entire taxi route, as is the practice today.

Sturgell also says the FAA has sent the National Air Traffic Controllers Association a proposed agreement to set up a non-punitive reporting system for controllers similar to the FAA's Aviation Safety Action Program for pilots, mechanics and others. "We're waiting for the signature," he says.

Another near term intervention - painting of new high-contrast taxiway centrelines in the vicinity of runway intersections, where a low-tech solution has proven effective in tests - is partially complete.

Source: Flight International