Eurocontrol Issues Runway Excursion 'Action Plan'

 - January 23, 2013, 11:19 AM
Runway excursions account for 33 percent of all accidents, according to data from the Flight Safety Foundation. (Photo: Boeing)

Eurocontrol has issued its European Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Excursions, the Brussels-based air traffic management organization announced Wednesday. The plan, directed at all providers and users of European aerodromes, incorporates recommendations from aerodrome operators, navigation service providers, aeronautical information service providers, aircraft operators, manufacturers, professional associations, the European Commercial Aviation Safety Team (ECAST), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and national aviation authorities.

Most of the recommendations called for the uniform and consistent application of ICAO rules, said Eurocontrol. While the agency identified technology as “undoubtedly part of the solution,” prevention of runway excursions also depends largely on training on unfamiliar situations, it added.  “Rigorous and realistic training scenarios will better prepare operational staff to cope with decisions to go around or reject a takeoff and lead to the execution of the correct and safe maneuvers,” said Tony Licu, head of Eurocontrol’s Safety Unit.

According to ICAO, runway excursions remain a persistent problem and their numbers have not decreased in more than 20 years. The Flight Safety Foundation said that runway excursions rank as the most common type of aviation accident, accounting for up to 33 percent of cases over the last 16 years.

The release of Eurocontrol’s Action Plan coincides with ongoing efforts by manufacturers to help address the problem with new technology and updated training manuals. Boeing and Embraer, for example, are collaborating on what the companies call Runway Situational Awareness Tools for landing an aircraft. The companies already have begun incorporating new pilot procedures into flight manual updates and expect to finish that task by the summer. The package also includes a free training video Boeing plans to make available early this year. Finally, within roughly a year, the companies expect to finish formulating a detailed implementation plan to introduce joint technology and systems for the flight deck to improve pilot information about approach and landing.

Embraer executive vice president of engineering and technology Mauro Kern explained that the equipment—still in a relatively early developmental stage—would provide both visual and aural cues to aid pilots’ awareness during descent, approach and landing while not compromising intuitiveness.