Eurocontrol launches hazard awareness plan in bid to to improve airport safety

Pilot mistakes are the principal single cause of runway incursion accidents and incidents, according to information gathered by Eurocontrol since it set up a centralised reporting programme.

Action on runway safety, already high on the aviation safety agenda, was hoisted to the top of the list by the October 2001 disaster at Milan Linate airport, in which a Cessna Citation CJ2 entered the runway as a Scandinavian Airlines Boeing MD-87 was taking off, resulting in the deaths of 122 people.

Analysis of reports filed since then indicates that taking off without clearance is the most frequent runway error that pilots make, followed by lining up for take-off when they have been cleared to hold short of the runway. About 58% of runway incursion errors are made by pilots, 22% by controllers, and 20% by airport vehicle drivers, according to Eurocontrol's head of airport operations Paul Wilson.

Under the European action plan for the prevention of runway incursions, formally launched in April 2003, Eurocontrol has launched a hazard awareness plan for airport operators, ATC service providers, pilots, controllers and vehicle drivers in the form of an interactive compact disc.

Three weeks ago the International Civil Aviation Organisation launched its action plan on world runway safety.

The problem is becoming more urgent, says Wilson, because airports are becoming more complex and congested, and pre-take-off tasks for pilots in modern aircraft are more onerous. He says that 50% of the pilots who make a runway line-up mistake are convinced afterwards they had valid clearance to do so. Most of the other events result from being unsure of their position on the airfield.

Source: Flight International