BASS 2023 delegates at this late afternoon session were treated to a bit of lagniappe, or extra treats, as locals in the conference host city of New Orleans would say. Attendees gained extra professional information and resources that went beyond the advertised title of lessons learned (LLs) for runway incursions and excursions. The extra attention to expanding the discussion envelope on the topic was well advised given the uptick in reported runway incidents, close calls and other safety shortfalls at US airports this year at all operational levels – from commercial passenger flights down to general aviation aircraft operations.
Moderator Tom Huff Tom Huff, Vice President, Aviation Programs, Empyrean Inc. and panel member Dan Boedigheimer, Ph.D., CEO, Advanced Aircrew Academy, set the tone for the session by noting a Flight Safety Foundation 2022 report, noted there were 47 corporate jet runway excursions in 2022, compared to 21 in 2021. Boedigheimer added content to this uptick, offering to explain the trend through the prism of wet/contaminated runways, stabilized approach criteria, wind and combined factors of the above three events. The subject matter expert encouraged delegates and others in their companies, to be proactive, to not only get updated information on runway conditions but to become familiar with FAA and association materiel on the topic. One document, FAA Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 19003, Turbojet Jet Braking Performance on Wet Runways, warns operators that advisory data for wet runway landings may not provide a safe stopping margin, especially in conditions of moderate or heavy rain. Boedigheimer, opined that given the tendency to go beyond stabilized approach criteria, for instance too high and too fast, it was time to challenge the often agreed upon 500’-1000’ft altitude to be stabilized, to another gate, perhaps 200’-300’ for a mandatory go-around point.
The academic-industry executive also challenged session attendees to face the reality there will seldom be static wind as part of actual landing conditions. To point, he called attention to the proclivity for “instantaneous winds,” and encouraged aircrews to consult the tower, VTAR and other resources for current weather conditions, in particular at airports without towers or those not crewed on weekends. A confluence of the above conditions may lead to a “call to action.” “You need to must ask if the standard (FAR, AFM, FOM, SOP, etc.) is clear. And then are you training to that standard.” Boedigheimer concluded, the pilot must finally ask whether valid standards have leadership support and then. it is an individual decision to follow legitimate, trained-to standards.
Airports as Safety Factors
Birke Rhodes, Manager, Airport Safety and Operations, FAA, also noted the “disturbing trend in runway incursions, with 1,732 reported in FY2022. Significantly, he emphasized the dynamic nature of airports are important in any discussion about runway incursions and excursions. Rhodes noted that in the next five years, there will be $15 billion in airport construction projects and an additional $10 billion in terminal and related construction work. He encouraged the community to regularly consult with NOTAMs and take other actions to coordinate flight plans early and conduct appropriate training. Given the near-term turbulence in US airport infrastructure programs, the FAA manager encouraged the communities to participate in Runway Safety Action Teams (RSAT), designed to bring local airport stakeholders together at least once a year to identify risks to surface safety at that airport and develop plans to mitigate or eliminate those risks.