FAA runway safety initiative launched

You’ve probably seen someone roll across the hold short line before the active runway was clear. Maybe the pilot was in a hurry. Or maybe the pilot didn’t understand the signage. Or the pilot failed to heed the instruction to “hold short.” There are a dozen scenarios, but they all amount to the same thing: A runway incursion.

The FAA is trying to help educate pilots about good decision making and situational awareness in the airport environment through a new runway safety initiative: “If you cross the line, you’ve crossed the line.”

According to Wes Timmons, director of runway safety for the FAA, part of the initiative involved a quiz for pilots about runway operations. The FAA was in particular interested in how well flight instructors did. The instructors did not do as well as the FAA hoped they would, which led to the creation of the initiative, he said.

“If you want to change the system you need to go back to the fundamentals, which is where people receive their training,” he said. “If the flight instructors are not as proficient as they should be with their knowledge of signs and markings and ground procedures, then it is possible that a good habit transfer is not being promoted to the students.”

The number one mistake, he said, is failure to hold short.

“It’s most common in the general aviation,” he said. “In general aviation you are often flying single pilot IFR night, you’re running your own checklists, you’re trying to copy your clearances, set up your own navigation and be ready for departure, you have a release time in a few minutes that you have to make and you’re paying all this in terms of airplane fuel and rental and it all starts adding up.”

Timmons recommends that pilots take the runway safety course that is on the AOPA website to refresh and update their knowledge. The course was revamped and unveiled in October at the AOPA Aviation Summit. “Since then over 10,000 pilots have taken that course and completed it, which is very, very encouraging, but that there 750,000 registered pilots, of which 450,000 are active,” he said.

Sometimes the incursions come from faded paint on runways and taxiways or confusing signage.

Timmons urges pilots to brush up on their recognition of airport signage, noting that it is imperative that they understand what the air traffic controller is asking them to do and, if there is any confusion, it needs to be clarified. “Knowing what the air traffic controller is saying to you is huge,” he said.

Pilots should also keep an eye out for safety issues at their airport, such as faded taxiway markings that could potentially lead to a runway incursion. “They should bring them to the attention of the airport management,” he said.

The FAA is encouraging pilots to get the word out about the safety initiative. For more information: FAA.Gov/Go/RunwaySafety.

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