June 4, 2014

Business aviation stakeholders at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) were among those in attendance at a recent Runway Safety Action Team (RSAT) meeting, where FAA officials reviewed some of the most pertinent issues affecting safe operations at the busy, Washington DC-area airport.

In addition to substantial commercial airline traffic, Dulles has also seen a sharp rise in business aircraft operations in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as business aircraft operators have been hard-pressed to comply with the extensive security protocols that have been added to facilitate their flights into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

“If there was a single statistic presented at the meeting that disturbed me, it was that the largest percentage of runway incursions nationwide – 75 percent – were by general aviation [GA] operators,” said John Kelley, president of Kelley Aviation, who attended the May 15 meeting. “The FAA didn’t break that number down between recreational GA and business aviation, so I’m not sure specifically what contribution our industry made to that, but it is still eye-opening.”

While those runway-incursion situations certainly aren’t typical at Dulles, several factors may lead to unwelcome surprises when operating at the airport. As one example, ongoing reconstruction of the airport’s taxiways means frequent closures – including high-speed runway exits – making it important to check notices to airmen (NOTAMs) prior to arrival, especially if operating at the airport at night.

Another potential issue at Dulles involves a situation near the hold-short line for departures on Runway 30. Due to the location of the taxiway, aircraft awaiting departure instructions may find themselves cut off from tower communications at the worst possible time.

“If pilots are using the belly comm antenna when on the ground, they may lose contact with the tower either at the hold-short line, or when lined up on the runway awaiting takeoff clearance,” Kelley explained. “Runway 30 is usually used exclusively for departures, but having an airplane go silent in this area may lead to conflicts with aircraft landing on Runways 1L/1C.” To rectify this issue, crews should transmit and receive ground instructions on their high-mounted comm antenna, which is better located to avoid ground obstructions.

Held annually at all major U.S. airports, RSAT meetings address existing runway-safety concerns, with an emphasis on developing action plans to resolve those issues.

“It’s a wonderful program, and very well organized,” Kelley concluded. “Having business aviation represented at these meetings is critical, and I appreciate that the FAA encourages the industry’s participation in them.”

Review the FAA’s runway safety resources.