Fact Sheet Buries the Headline that FAA & Industry are Advancing Runway Safety

faa runway safety advancements
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FAA Runway Safety Advancements

FAA Fact Sheet Should be Known by Congress, News Media & General Public

Fact Sheet – Runway Safety

On July 7, 2017, Air Canada Flight 759 descended towards what the pilots thought was a runway at San Francisco International Airport. Seconds before a major accident, the pilots pulled up their A-320. This incident was the subject of many, many articles and then the remedial efforts to prevent a reoccurrence became a repeated news item.

faa disasters averted runway

On August 28, 2017, the FAA’s press office issued a Fact Sheet — Runway Safety. [The FAA had only issued press releases on AIP grants since July 7.] As with other similar information releases of this category, the data is extremely comprehensive and detailed (1,500 words). No headlines or executive summaries, but a careful reading will identify some very significant facts relative to the recent incident.

I. Serious runway incursions have decreased from 43 in 2000 to 10 in 2016 and for the seven months of 2017 a low of 2.

runway incursions


II. The FAA cited three factors which had contributed to this improvement:

i. Collaborative Approach

The FAA, airlines and labor (not yet airports) employ a collaborative, problem-solving and data driven process, called Safety Management System to proactively address emerging risks. This world class technique has proved to be very useful in finding practical solutions; some are specific to a single airport, others have more general application.

faa airline collaborative approach safety management systems sms

ii. Converging Runway Operations

Some airfields’ geometries have runways which do not intersect, but the ATC flight paths converge to a single line near the runway (CRO) One of the most substantial safety improvements made to runway safety in 2013 and 2014 was the creation of a new policy related to CRO. This point of emphasis resulted in a policy which limits the use of non-intersecting converging runways where the flight paths intersect within one-nautical mile plus new procedures, tools and training.

converging runway operations

iii. Training

Training is a fundamental component of the safety paradigm. The FAA conducts recurrent driver training instruction as well as other training for airport employees at all certificated U.S. airports. Mandatory recurrent runway safety training for air traffic controllers is conducted semi-annually. The FAA works collaboratively with key safety groups to reach as many pilots as possible with training material that addresses current runway safety issues. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) provides a comprehensive online runway safety course and examination to both AOPA members and non-members.


III. Technologies are being implemented which are a source of some of the extant improving performance and will contribute to future enhancements — Runway Safety Technologies:

i. The FAA developed Run Way Safety Lighting (RWSL) to help clarify the designations of runways and taxiways PLUS to identify the operational status of the tarmac before the airplane turns into an incorrect position or where another  aircraft may be taking off or landing.

RWSLs are now operational at the following airports:

1. Orlando International Airport
2. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
3. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport
4. Charlotte Douglas International Airport
5. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
6. Washington Dulles International Airport
7. George Bush Intercontinental Airport
8. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
9. Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport
10. LaGuardia International Airport
11. Los Angeles International Airport

The following airports are in various stages of site-acceptance testing, construction,or implementation:

1. Baltimore-Washington International Airport
2. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
3. San Francisco International Airport
4. Newark Liberty International Airport
5. John F. Kennedy International Airport
6. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
7. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
8. General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport
9. San Diego International Airport

→  All 20 airports should be operational by the end of fiscal year 2017.


IV. Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model 3 (ASDE-3)/Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS)

ASDE-3/AMASS is a radar-based system (including software) that tracks ground movements and provides an automatic visual and audio alert to controllers when it detects potential collisions on airport runways. ASDE-3/AMASS is operational at nine airports.

airport surface detection equipment

V. Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X)

ASDE-X provides more precise surface detection technology. While the ASDE-3/AMASS is based on non-cooperative sensor technology, ASDE-X integrates data from a variety of sources, including radars, transponder multilateration systems and Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) to provide accurate target position and identification information and thus give controllers a more reliable view of airport operations. ASDE-X provides tower controllers a surface traffic situation display with visual and audible alerting of traffic conflicts and potential collisions. ASDE-X is installed at 35 airports in the U.S. For more information, see the ASDE-X fact sheet on the FAA website.

VI. Runway Safety Areas (RSA)

On December 31, 2015, the FAA successfully completed a 15-year effort to improve runway safety areas (RSAs) at commercial service airports. More than 1,000 runway ends at 500 airports were improved to offer enhanced safety at the nation’s airports. The RSA is typically 500-feet wide and extends 1,000- feet beyond each end of the runway. It provides a graded area in the event that an aircraft overruns, undershoots, or veers off the side of the runway.

runway safety areas airlines

VII. Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS)

EMAS technology provides safety benefits in cases where land is not available or it’s not possible to have the standard 1,000-foot overrun. A standard EMAS installation can stop an aircraft from overrunning the runway at approximately 80 miles per hour. EMAS uses crushable material placed at the end of a runway to stop an aircraft that overruns the runway. The tires of the aircraft sink into the lightweight material and the aircraft is decelerated as it rolls through the material.

engineered material arresting system emas

VIII. Runway Incursion Mitigation (RIM)

The RIM program is a national initiative to identify airport risk factors that might contribute to a runway incursion, and to develop strategies to help airport sponsors mitigate those risks. Risk factors that contribute to runway incursions may include unclear taxiway markings, airport signage, and more complex issues such as the runway or taxiway layout.

runway incursion north las vegas airport

IX. Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) with Moving Map Displays

Pilots use Moving Map Displays and Aircraft Own-Ship Position to help them determine where their aircraft is on an airfield, thus reducing the chances of being in the wrong place.

electronic flight bag efb


The dry nature of a fact sheet, its length with heavy dose of details and the lack of highlights assures that this important information is easily ignored by the press. That’s unfortunate for these are facts should be known by congress, the news media and the general public!!


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1 Comment on "Fact Sheet Buries the Headline that FAA & Industry are Advancing Runway Safety"

  1. RWSL stands for Runway Status Lights not Runways Safety Lights. I believe that the program was originally “Safety” when it was tried at Boston Logan sometime in the 90s with unsatisfactory sensors. When it was prototyped at DFW beginning in early 2002 using multi-lateration the name was changed to “Status” I believe to avoid confusion with the Boston trial. I served at the DFW Site Coordinator for MIT/LL at DFW until 2009.

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