April 20, 2017

NBAA’s Safety Committee is encouraging members to take part in a survey aimed at finding answers to the vexing problem of runway incursions.

The online questionnaire is being conducted during April by three universities and is funded through the Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability (PEGASAS). The survey is aimed primarily at general aviation (GA) pilots because they “are involved in about 80 percent of runway incursions,” according to the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE), a PEGASAS participant.

Because business aircraft operators share runways with so many recreational GA pilots, the committee believes input from the NBAA pilot community is important in developing a comprehensive and accurate response for researchers.

Ben Kohler, CAM, an NBAA Safety Committee member who has been flying for more than 35 years, noted “how insidious the [runway incursion] problem is. Nobody consciously takes the risk” of possibly being involved in a runway incursion, he said. But “there are so many factors that come into play… it’s easier to have one of those bite you than you think. Just having a stabilized approach is no guarantee of mitigating or avoiding the risk.”

Kohler suggests operators review the Safety Committee report titled Reducing Business Aviation Runway Excursions (PDF) for examples of how to identify risk factors that could also lead to runway incursions.

Hardy Bullock is director of aviation and community services at Truckee Tahoe Airport (TRK), which is 200 miles northeast of San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Bullock, who has been flying for 20 years, says pilots must be aware of many factors when flying into airports like TRK, which does not have a control tower, a ground controller or radar coverage.

For example, during the busy summer months, a mix of light GA aircraft – including business jets and turboprops, gliders and sky-diving flights – operate at TRK, and a variety of vehicles traverse its ramps and runways, all of which could factor into a runway incursion.

Similar scenarios, featuring a mix of different aircraft types/flying speeds and pilots with varying experience levels, can be found at hundreds of other small, uncontrolled airports nationwide. Those situations pose a “disproportionate risk” to business aircraft operators, Bullock said. “It’s up to the pilot to understand the risk when he operates in that environment,” he added.

The topic of runway excursions is one of NBAA’s 2017 Top Safety Focus Areas. Pilots can access the General Aviation Runway Incursions Questionnaire through April 2017.