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Regional Representation

Local, Regional Groups Key to Runway Safety

Local and regional business aviation groups can play an important role in elevating runway safety at nearby airports. While some runway safety risks can be mitigated through technology, including lighting and markings and advanced technology in the aircraft, experts say education and awareness are often the biggest factors in mitigating runway excursions and incursions.

“We can’t focus on technology only,” said a former airport manager, now head of a state aviation group, who considers information sharing to be a critical part of runway safety. “Stakeholders have to work together to maintain safety.”

This includes reporting hazardous conditions, whether unclear instructions from an inexperienced controller, physical attributes of an airport or other conditions.

Ben Kohler, a member of NBAA’s new Runway and Surface Safety Working Group, shared how his organization’s safety management system (SMS) and coordination with a local airport manager had a direct impact on runway safety at a small airport his organization frequents.

Recently a flight crew submitted an SMS report after an incident while maneuvering to avoid hitting a taxiway information sign. The sign had been reported in the SMS before, and company pilots were made aware of its position and the risk of collision.

After this second safety report, Kohler contacted the airport manager as part of the department’s investigation process, who provided actual position and dimensions of the sign. Although the reporting pilots’ aircraft would have cleared the sign, a visual illusion makes a collision appear inevitable. The airport manager agreed with the results of Kohler’s investigation, removed the signs, and will place new ones where they do not create a hazard.

“Mitigations like this impact everyone,” Kohler said. “Airports and regional groups should reach out to their local FAA FAASTeam representatives and coordinate with flying clubs, owner groups and other stakeholders at their airports.”

“Our regional members are our safety ambassadors.”

Alex Gertsen, CAM, NBAA Director, Airports and Ground Infrastructure

Alex Gertsen, CAM, NBAA director, airports and ground infrastructure, reiterated the importance of local and regional stakeholders. “Operators based in the area have a unique advantage of frequenting area airports, recognizing hazards that may exist due to complex airport geometry or other factors and are also more likely to identify and communicate new concerns that may pop up.”

Gertsen also encouraged stakeholders to participate in Runway Safety Action Team (RSAT) meetings at nearby airports. “Our regional members are our safety ambassadors, leveraging their relationships with the airport managers, air traffic controllers and FBOs in their region and leading the way to educate others, share ideas and resolve issues in a collaborative way to elevate runway and surface safety.”

Review NBAA’s Runway Excursion Guide at

Massport Runway Safety Summit

The Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, began an annual Runway Safety Summit several years ago, primarily looking to prevent vehicle/pedestrian deviations (VPDs) on airport surfaces. Not long after, Massport Director of Aviation Services David Ishihara realized they could learn more and share by expanding the focus beyond VPDs.

“This is a unique gathering of small and large airport operators, FAA representatives and airport users,” said Ishihara. “It’s a day-long working session where we encourage people to open up and be candid in sharing their experiences and ideas in the spirit of continuous improvement. It began with the idea of meeting with our peer airport operators to learn how they have been successful in mitigating the risk of incursions and has quickly expanded to include users of our facilities.

“Problem-solving with peers is producing positive results. We talk about issues and events that are relevant, current and impactful to everyone’s operation,” said Ishihara. “Airport operators are missing a critical component to their safety program if they are not engaging and considering other users’ perspectives including pilots [GA, corporate, air carrier, etc.], air traffic control and so on.”

Ishihara encourages other airports or aviation groups to consider establishing similar summits.

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