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CFS 2018: Surface Safety

Runway safety is a significant challenge and a top priority for everyone in aviation. With a projected increase in operations across the National Airspace System (NAS), the risk of a collision is always present when more than one aircraft is approaching, landing, departing, crossing, waiting on, or taxiing on the same runway.

Our safety record is built on swift and skillful actions and teamwork that comes together to save lives. Through Partnership for Safety (PFS), Runway Safety has begun a Surface Safety Campaign, which brings controller awareness to the trending surface safety events in the NAS. One of the continued goals of NATCA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is to bring more information from FAA headquarters to the field, and this is one of the techniques to do so.

Surface Watch is a joint recognition program developed under the Surface Safety Campaign. It allows for an opportunity to bring additional awareness as well as a recognition program to acknowledge individuals and teams of controllers and supervisors for their exemplary saves and initiatives that focus on surface safety.

NATCA and the FAA want to hear about these successes:

  • Recognizing and addressing a potential wrong surface landing or takeoff;
  • Recognizing and addressing an aircraft attempting to land at the wrong airport;
  • Preventing runway incursions/surface incidents;
  • Reducing local surface events through local Runway Safety Action Teams (RSATs), the Local Safety Council, or other collaborative workgroup;
  • Other achievements that focus on your facility’s teamwork and dedication to improving surface safety.

Learn more and nominate an individual or a team for the new Surface Watch recognition program at https://www.natca.org/surfacewatch.

In the last two years, 596 aircraft landed or attempted to land on the wrong runway or wrong airport. Airport geometry, communication, and expectation bias are among the most common wrong surface landing precursors:

  • Parallel and offset parallel runway configurations contribute to more wrong surface landings (WSL) more than any other configuration;
  • Pilots incorrectly proceed to the runway they typically utilize or expect, versus the one actually assigned by air traffic controllers, even after correctly reading back the runway assignment;
  • Pilots not specifically (visually) identifying or confirming their assigned runway, or misidentifying another runway for the one they are cleared for;
  • Pilots not utilizing readily available geographic, visual and charted information to aid in correct runway identification.

One of the many mitigations for WSL is Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X) Taxiway Arrival Prediction (ATAP). In 2017, the FAA developed an ASDE-X enhancement that alerts when an aircraft is aligned with a taxiway. There is a national collaborative workgroup (CWG) working on bringing ATAP to all viable ASDE-X sites. ASDE-X ATAP is a technology aid for controllers to assist in mitigating events in which an aircraft lines up with a taxiway on arrival.

The following air traffic control towers are scheduled to be reviewed to determine viability of receiving the ATAP enhancement: Atlanta, Bradley, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago Midway, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. A Collaborative Workgroup has been formed to oversee the process of enabling this enhancement. The workgroup provides each facility with a checklist of necessary steps and the information and data pertinent to their operation. It also assists with local training and the local Safety Risk Management (SRM).

Safety works when people work together. Collaboratively, we work to develop runway safety solutions that benefit both stakeholders and the flying public by assessing the data to identify root causes and precursor events that may lead to accidents. Together we can make a difference in safety.


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