Did you know that runway incursions and excursions represent two out of the top five high-risk categories identified in the Global Aviation Safety Plan by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)?
The aviation industry has been collectively working to improve runway safety for many years. ICAO and the Runway Safety Partners (ACI, IATA, The Flight Safety Foundation, CANSO, among others) developed the Global Runway Safety Action Plan (GRSAP) and many other initiatives to improve runway safety, the Global Reporting Format (GRF) being the most recent.
As the aviation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several old and new factors to be considered for improving runway safety. Let’s explore some of them.
When I think about runway safety, the first few things that come to mind are collaboration, partnership, and safety risk management. Consequently, a Runway Safety Team (RST) becomes a fundamental pilar to building a comprehensive program to effectively manage runway safety.
RST is a multi-disciplinary team, led by the airport operator, that proactively manages runway safety, conducting hazard identification, safety risk assessments and implementing action plans to improve runway safety. RSTs may not necessarily replace existing cross-disciplinary teams such as an Airside Safety Committee but should be integrated within the safety management system of an airport. If you don’t have an RST yet, it is time to build one!
In simple terms, humans are reactive by nature, and aviation professionals are not an exception. We tend to measure our performance based on reactive indicators, for example: number of runway incursions or excursions per X number of aircraft movements. Don’t get me wrong, it is very important to maintain these lagging performance indicators, however emphasis should be given to the performance of the leading indicators, those that comprise ”safety nets” designed to stop the chain of events that could lead to a runway incursion or excursion (i.e., number of runway inspections completed vs the number of runway inspections planned, etc.).
In this enhanced virtual world, we can leverage available technology and be more creative in solving problems. For example, bringing pilots from international airlines to participate in RSTs has always been a challenge and now they can virtually attend. If we take this one step further, we could include specialists from different airports, and other stakeholders. These cross-border and cross-organizational RSTs could be instantly notified of ongoing trends, events, or best practices.
In today’s world, airports can partner with other airports to mutually participate in each other’s RST meetings and share best practices, perhaps even organize virtual visits to the runway or a hot spot.
There is no one simple solution to runway safety, it is the job of multiple stakeholders working together and collaboratively to identify hazards, conduct risk assessments, and implement mitigating measures to improve runway safety.