Push to reduce numbers of incidents yet to yield results

Eurocontrol has reacted with disappointment after a serious incident at Germany's Munich airport added to the tally of dangerous runway incursions already building up this year. The air navigation agency has been working for more than two years designing and establishing programmes to enable the industry to reduce incursions and increase the reporting of air traffic incidents, but the beneficial effects have yet to show, it admits.

The Munich incursion, in which a high-speed collision was avoided by a few metres, occurred on 4 May, but there have been several serious incidents already this year. On 27 April two aircraft lined up at the opposite ends of runway 24 at Naples Capodicino airport, when one had to abort take-off from about 100kt (185km/h). An incursion at Manchester airport, UK in February caused an Airbus A321 to abandon its take-off.

Meanwhile Eurocontrol's head of airport operations Paul Wilson says a serious runway incident at Frankfurt "three months ago" resulted from a difference in US and International Civil Aviation Organisation ATC terminology that has led several US pilots in Europe to line up for take-off when they were not cleared to do so. In the ICAO phraseology used in Europe, "taxi to holding position" means the aircraft approaching its take-off runway should hold short of it. In the USA, a non-ICAO phrase in common use at the same taxiing phase is "taxi into position and hold", but that means line up on the runway and wait, so at Frankfurt a US pilot entered the active runway without clearance.

Last week's Munich incident was the worst incursion this year and occurred as a KLM Boeing 737-300 with 133 people on board landed on the airport's runway 08R. Just after touchdown, according to KLM, a twin-turboprop ATR 42 unexpectedly entered the runway and the 737 pilot had to swerve at "about 200km/h" missing it by "just a few metres".

The ATR 42 is believed to have been operated by Italian regional Air Dolomiti, but the airline was unable to comment. Airport air traffic control experts believe the ATR entered from a taxiway designed for the fast exit of aircraft landing in the reciprocal direction - the acute angle at which the taxiway joins 08R would have made it difficult for the ATR crew to see the approaching 737 from the cockpit.

A similar situation resulted in the death of a Shorts 330 co-pilot in May 2000 when his aircraft entered the active runway uncleared at Paris Charles de Gaulle and the wingtip of a Boeing MD-83 that had been cleared for take-off sliced into the cockpit at near rotation speed.



Source: Flight International