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Over the last ten years, runway excursion occurrence numbers have remained steady. Large and small aircraft alike have departed the runway in steady numbers. After years of research, a collaboration between EASA and the Flight Safety Foundation have produced the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Excursions (GAPPRE). Stakeholders from all over the world participated to produce two reports that will be paraded around the industry throughout 2021. The first volume spells out the recommendations, of which there are 101: 17 for airport operators, 8 for air navigation service providers, 35 for aircraft operators, 16 for aircraft manufacturers, 17 for aviation regulators and ICAO, and 8 for research and development.
The second volume, which will be released in soon, will provide explanatory and guidance material, and best practices for the recommendations listed in the first document.
Let’s first define a runway excursion.
Therefore, there are different types of runway excursions. In one case, a departing aircraft fails to become airborne or successfully reject the take off before reaching the end of the designated runway. In another case, the landing aircraft is unable to stop before the end of the runway is reached.
This is from the first volume of the GAPPRE report:
IATA reported that between 2005 and the first half of 2019, 23% of accidents in the IATA’s global accident database involved a runway excursion. This was the most frequent end state, followed by Gear-up landing or Gear collapse at 15% and Ground Damage which was 12%. So almost one quarter of all accidents include an excursion.
Runway excursion risk is one of the best examples of how different aviation segments must work together. Factors can include:
Many aspects of aviation must work together to make a successful landing and provide timely and accurate information to the flight crew. What if you get a wind check and it’s a strong tailwind all of a sudden? This could be a briefing item if the airport winds have been changing direction.
What are some of the GAPPRE recommendations? There are lots, but I will touch on a few of those aimed at air operators. I will paraphrase heavily as each recommendation is wordy.
If technically feasible, aircraft operators should equip their aircraft fleet with data-link systems, such as ACARS, enabling them to digitally obtain the latest weather information. The use of this technical means has to be supported by adequate SOPs enabling all pilots on the flight deck to familiarise themselves with the latest weather conditions without impeding aircraft and flight path monitoring.
Yes, ACARS is nice to have and you can even set the FMS to automatically send you the latest ATIS without having to send for it. Bottom line is: have the latest weather, but me mindful that weather could come out after your approach briefing and in the descent, on the STAR etc. ATC can be a great resource, but they have to provide new weather information in a timely manner.
Aircraft operators should incorporate appropriate technical solutions to reduce runway excursion risks, such as Runway Overrun Awareness and Alerting System (ROAAS), and runway veer-off awareness and alerting systems. If technical solutions are not available, operators should implement appropriate SOPs and Threat and Error Management (TEM) strategies.
Ok, so have the equipment. I used RAAS in the past and it was an excellent tool to double-check the runway you are on and the correct one, and, if a reject is happening, how much runway is remaining. If you don’t have this equipment, then it’s the SOPs that help prevent the occurrence. A new briefing item where I work is based on the TEM model (Threat and Error Management). We discuss threats for every takeoff and every approach. Examples include lack of currency, mountainous terrain, strong crosswind, contaminated runway. There are lots of possibilities here.
Aircraft operators should implement policies for flight crews not to accept ATC procedures and clearances which have the potential to decrease safety margins to an unacceptable level. This includes such procedures and clearances which increase the likelihood of being unstabilized at the landing gate or high-energy approaches.
These policies should be further supplemented by the implementation of effective SOPs and flight crew training. Flight crew should be required to report such risks within their operators SMS and the aircraft operator should further report such risks to the ANSPs via established reporting systems.
Yes, there is an operator responsibility here, but this also speaks to airmanship to plan ahead in terminal areas where shortcuts are probable. Consider being configured early if you expect a short cut or a slam dunk. San Francisco is a good example. Some Operators have developed a document where all local important information is stored such as FBO information but also helpful approach configuration information. Sometimes it’s nice to know what other crews have experienced.
Aircraft operators should implement policies for safe descent and approach planning, stabilized approach, safe landing ,and go-around, and should ensure that these are implemented in their training. Aircraft operators should define which elements of these policies have to be included and highlighted during the approach briefings by flight crews.
Yes, stabilized approach procedures. Ensure you know your stabilized approach criteria. Here is mine:
Stabilized flight at no later than 1,000′ AFE is always required.
A stabilized approach is defined as:
Note: Descent rates above 1,000 fpm should be avoided. Avoid any tendency to “duck under” the profile approaching the threshold. If the approach is not stabilized at 1,000 feet above field elevation or the approach becomes unstable below 1,000 feet, a go-around must be executed.
Aircraft operators should implement policies or SOPs for flight crews not to conduct takeoff or approach following any runway change until the appropriate set-up, planning, performance calculations, and crosschecks by all pilots and re-briefings are completed. When a takeoff runway change is received whilst taxiing, the above should be performed by flight crew without rushing and when the aircraft is stationary. Runway excursion-related TEM should be addressed in the briefing every time a runway change is expected, probable or actually occurs.
I like this one as much more quality work happens with the park brake is set. I got an earful from ATC many years ago in Phoenix as we had planned a departure off one runway as per the ATIS, but we were given the parallel runway for departure in the taxi clearance. The SIDS were different enough. We wanted to remain stationary to set up the new runway, and the controller didn’t like that. If you have a “route 2” in your FMS then perhaps load the other possible approach in route 2.
Aircraft operators should define company crosswind and tailwind limits which are specific to each type of aircraft operated. Moreover, specific guidance on the runway conditions and the gust components should be clarified. Aircraft operators should establish clear policies to allow their flight crews to reduce the established limits whenever deemed necessary for safety reasons in actual flight operation.
Gusty winds are the red flag here for me. When you calculate the wind additive to your Vref does your SOP say to include the all the wind gust? Where I work, we use half the steady wind and all the gust component to a maximum of 15 knots. This would be all headwind so, if the wind is a crosswind, you would use a factor of the total. Also, what’s important here is how that wind additive is managed before touchdown. Our procedures have us maintain the gust additive until touchdown, but the steady wind correction is bled off as the aircraft approaches touchdown.
Let’s change gears for a moment. In The News is a part of the podcast where I talk about happenings in aviation.
Today I thought I would continue with the runway excursion theme and briefly discuss an excursion in Tennessee. There were only minor injuries in this event, and the information is public knowledge from the NTSB report. The accident happened in a Cessna Citation Latitude at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Tennessee in August of 2019. Many factors or threats were at play here.
The flight conditions were VMC. During the initial phase of the visual approach to Runway 24, the aircraft passed 710 feet above a ridge when the Terrain Awareness System (TAWS), excessive closure rate caution, and warning alerts (“terrain, terrain” followed by “whoop, whoop, pull up”) sounded.
The crew elected to continue the approach. This by itself is perfectly fine as the ridge line would have been visible in VMC conditions.
The TAWS system would sound four additional alerts. At 1,400 feet AGL when the excessive descent rate alert (“sink rate”) would sound as the rate of descent indicated 2,400 fpm. After that were rate of terrain closure alerts (“caution terrain,” “caution terrain,” followed by “whoop, whoop, pull up”), all below 1,000 feet AGL.
At 500 feet above the runway, as full flaps were selected (at 174 kias) the first officer (pilot monitoring) said, “And I don’t need to tell ya, we’re really fast.” The captain said, “I’m at idle,” followed three seconds later by, “Do I need to go around?” The first officer responded, “No.”
At this point, the captain extended speed brakes because he was at Vref+66 knots.
The aircraft crossed the runway threshold at Vref+19; the thrust levers were at idle for almost two minutes before touchdown. The aircraft bounced 3 times and left the pavement.
Have a look at the GAPPRE document and perhaps consider scenarios where crews could get rushed and push the approach.
Thanks for listening.
EUROCONTROL/Flight Safety Foundation. (2021). Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Excursions, Part 1 – Recommendations.
Trautvetter, Chad. (2021). Aviation Groups Release Runway Excursion Reduction Plan. Aviation International News.
Required fields are indicated with a red star.
Required fields are indicated with a red star.