Airport security: Runway incursions a 'troublesome' problem

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Airport security: Runway incursions a “troubling

An airliner lands on the runway of an airport.

The proportion of runway incursions has doubled at Canadian airports over the past 10 years. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) suggests that they “create an ongoing risk of collisions”.

In its latest Watchlist, the TSB says that incursions on runway is a concern and calls for measures to be put in place to improve safety on airport runways across the country.

A runway incursion occurs when there is an unauthorized and unexpected presence of a vehicle, person or aircraft on or near a usable runway, according to the TSB. Although the majority of these incursions represent a low risk of collisions, their frequency raises concerns.

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TSB President Kathleen Fox says the number of these incursions and their steady increase are troubling.

No fatalities attributed to runway incursions have occurred in Canada since 1978. When Pacific Western Flight 314 crashed at Cranbrook Airport, British Columbia, 43 of the 49 passengers on board found the dead. The crew was trying to avoid a collision with a snow removal truck on the runway.

During the pandemic, runway incursions have decreased, but when held Taking into account the reduction in the number of landings and take-offs during the same period, the rate of incursions continued to rise to reach, in 2021, 10.7 incursions per 100,000 arrivals and departures.

The Transportation Safety Board has been concerned about this issue for several years and has included runway incursions on its annual watch list since 2010. During that same period, 15 investigations have been completed after incidents related to incursions.

In a press release, Transport Canada says that in 2015 it amended its standards and recommended practices for aerodromes, in particular to better prevent runway incursions.< em>

“Transport Canada's safety regulations, standards and guidelines ensure that aircraft operations on Canadian runways remain safe by preventing runway incursions through a number of measures: stop, runway guard lights, and improved taxiway and stop line centerline markings. These measures provide a high level of security and meet the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization. »

— Transport Canada

Another partner targeted by the TSB's recommendations is NAV CANADA. The not-for-profit company is responsible for air traffic control, flight information and other aeronautical services.

NAV CANADA also did not specify the measures put in place to reduce the number of runway incursions, but points out that “the proportion of the number of incidents remains low when related to the total number of movement of aircraft, and that the level of risk associated with the vast majority of these incidents is low”.

“The Canada's aviation sector is one of the safest in the world.


Ms. Fox points out, however, that it is difficult to compare the performance of Canadian airports with that of airports elsewhere in the world when it comes to runway incursions, because the different countries do not collect the data. on them in the same way. For example, in Canada, the data includes the presence of vehicles or people on an available runway even if no aircraft were nearby, which is not the case in other countries.

The TSB classifies runway incursions into three categories, either pilot deviation, operating irregularities, which are generally related to technology systems, or vehicle or pedestrian deviation.

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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada had already produced a report, in 2019, recommending changes to Pearson International Airport. Communication problems between crews and air traffic controllers as well as the accomplishment of ground procedures by crews while taxiing to the terminal after landing were among other things raised in the report.


The TSB also determined that the very configuration of the runways at the Toronto airport could contribute to the confusion.

“[…] the Board recommends that: The Greater Toronto Airports Authority make physical modifications to the taxiway layout to mitigate the risk of incursion between parallel runways and, until these changes be made, implement further improvements to increase the conspicuity of the runway holding points.

— Recommendation issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in January 2019

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) has implemented various measures and action plans in recent years to comply with the TSB recommendations. In its most recent report, the Board rated the GTAA's responses as Satisfactory in Part.

“We take any incidents safety seriously and we are committed to working with the Transportation Safety Board […].

— Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Modification work underway at two Toronto airport runways includes complete replacement and [up]grading of lighting illuminated for the runway, taxi-holding pad and adjacent taxiway.

In March 2020, a near-miss collision at Pearson airport when 'a plane had started taking off while another aircraft was still on the runway.

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