Risk of collisions on runways

This video discusses risk of collisions on runways, which is one of the nine safety issues identified by the Transportation Safety Board as posing the greatest risk to Canadians. To find out more about these safety issues, see the Watchlist 2012.

Transcript of the video

Risk of collisions on runways

Advancing safety is at the core of what we do at the Transportation Safety Board. Our Watchlist—updated in June 2012—is the result of hundreds of investigations and countless hours of accident analysis. As a result, it identifies the issues that pose the greatest risk to Canadians and our transportation system. The risk of collisions on runways is one of these key issues.

Airports are busy places. On a typical day at any Canadian airport, dozens sometimes hundreds of vehicles and aircraft cross active runways. On occasion, these encounters don't go smoothly. An aircraft may be taxiing without proper clearances, or an airport vehicle driver veering into a seemingly inactive take-off area. Although unintentional, these types of circumstances can result in a runway incursion. This is when an unauthorized aircraft, vehicle or person mistakenly finds themselves on the protected area of an active runway, which puts them at risk of colliding with an aircraft on the ground.

From 2001 to 2009, there were over 4100 of these incursions in Canada. Considering the millions of take offs and landings and significant activity at airports each year, runway incursions are relatively uncommon, but their consequences can be catastrophic. What's even more alarming is that since we first placed this issue on our Watchlist, the number of runway incursions hasn't decreased: in 2010, there were 351; and in 2011, another 446.

And throughout our investigations, we've uncovered a number of risks. Pilots at controlled airports, for example, don't always read back clearances or correctly follow them. At uncontrolled airports, intentions aren't systematically communicated and extra caution sometimes lacks when crossing runways. In some cases, air traffic controllers aren't using standard phraseology or asking pilots to read back their instructions. And for airports, new technological defenses that can assist controllers identify potential runway conflicts aren't always present.

Because Canada's aviation industry relies so heavily on people, processes and technology, the TSB is pushing for the advancement of airport procedures and collision defenses to reduce these occurrences. And until the risk of collisions is sufficiently addressed at Canadian airports, this issue will remain on our safety Watchlist.