Runway Incursions involve Hidden Risk Factors for which SMS is well designed to Identify and Solve

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ARTICLE: Review of FAA’s Call to Action Plan for Runway Safety


Runway incursions have been on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List for a while and a year ago, the US Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General initiated an audit of the FAA’s efforts to address this important issue. Recent reports have reminded us of this issue.

Runway incursions are the sort of hidden hazard for which SMS may be the best tool to find answers.

The SMS 360° approach is an important first step. So many different players can contribute to the problem and SMS captures all of their viewpoints. Air Traffic Control and the airlines are the obvious participants, but tenants with permission to use the airport roadways have valuable perspective. SMS’ outreach techniques will find ways in which to learn from itinerant users.

It is axiomatic to say that no one ever intentionally places an airplane and another vehicle in position for a potential accident. Backing off one or two sequences from that risk analysis may not incorporate all of the relevant factors. SMS’ data focus will search for those statistically rare, but potentially catastrophic, factors for which prophylactic tactics should be developed.

A third valuable aspect of the SMS discipline is that it brings together aviation professionals of all the relevant disciplines. These different perspectives contribute to the development of innovative solutions to problems which have existed for a while and which may have been thought as being “insoluble.”

If your airport is concerned about runway incursions and wants to develop a cost-effective, prioritized response, consulting an SMS expert would be well advised.

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