For Immediate Release

April 1, 2000
Contact: Arlene Salac, Jim Peters
Phone: (718) 553-3015


Increasing runway safety by reducing incidents and incursions is one of FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey’s top priorities in aviation safety, and the FAA has taken a number of measures to improve runway safety. These include:

Elevated Effort

In August 1999, Garvey elevated the runway safety effort in the agency by creating a new program office with additional resources and the authority to enlist all components of the FAA. An experienced manager, the director of the office reports directly to the Deputy Associate Administrator for Air Traffic Services.

Action Teams

All of the actions are part of the FAA’s continuing efforts to reduce incursions through additional education and training for pilots, controllers and airport vehicle drivers. The FAA believes that heightening and maintaining the awareness of all involved is the best way to reduce incursions. This education and training effort builds on earlier initiatives to increase awareness.

In 1998, the FAA began sending Runway Incursion Action Teams (RIAT) to airports with high rates of incidents incursions. These teams meet with airport officials, pilots, airlines and controllers to explore reasons for recent incursions and methods to prevent recurrences. In 1999, the FAA made RIAT visits to 20 airports and plans to make another 25 visits this year.

Regional Workshops

On March 14, 2000, Garvey announced a series of nine regional workshops to be held around the country in the spring. (Locations include Los Angeles, Seattle, Kansas City, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Anchorage, New York, Chicago and Atlanta.)

Under the auspices of the FAA, these meetings will bring together airlines, airport officials, organizations in the general aviation community, pilots and air traffic controllers to develop additional ways to reduce runway incursions at airports in the regions.

National Summit

The regional meetings will be followed by a national one in June to share results of the regional sessions and to review current efforts in human factors and new technologies.

Pilot Program

In March, the Administrator also announced a one-year program to encourage pilots who have been involved in runway incursions to discuss the incidents with FAA safety inspectors. In return, the FAA would, under most circumstances, take only administrative action against the pilot.

New Technology

The agency is also looking at technology to help in reducing incursions. Currently, 34 major airports have Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE-3), an airport radar that shows the locations of aircraft on the ground to tower controllers. To work with the ASDE-3 radar, the agency is installing software that will sound an alarm to warn controllers of a potential accident after an incursion has occurred. Called Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS), this software is now being installed nationwide. AMASS will begin initial operation at San Francisco this September. It will be fully operational there in June of 2001 and in all 34 airports by September of 2002.

Developing AMASS into a useful, reliable warning system has been a complex technical challenge that has taken longer and cost more that we initially estimated. And it solves just part of the overall problem because it will be at only 34 large airports. Therefore, the FAA will award a contract in September for a less-expensive ground radar and warning system – called ASDE-X — for airports that don’t have the ASDE-3 radar and AMASS. Two prototype systems are now undergoing evaluations at the Milwaukee and Norfolk airports.

Statistics & Definitions

Last year, as many as 600,000 pilots made about 68 million safe takeoffs and landings. About 7,000 air traffic controllers at more than 450 airports supervised them. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of individuals authorized to drive vehicles on airports. The numbers of flights, people and airports involved under different conditions mean there is no easy or simple solution to reducing runway incursions that may lead to accidents.

The FAA defines a runway incursion as “any occurrence at an airport that involves an aircraft, vehicle, person or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in loss of separation with an aircraft taking off, intending to take off, landing, or intending to land.” The term “loss of separation” refers to air traffic control (ATC) minimum distances between aircraft. An incident is a lesser event that involves a violation of regulations but with no collision hazard or loss of separation. For example, an airport truck driving along a runway without permission from the control tower would be an incident if no aircraft were present, but an incursion if an aircraft was less than one mile from landing.

FAA Facts

Federal Aviation Administration
Contact: Tony Molinaro
Phone: (847) 294-7427
April 2000

Runway Incursions at U.S. Midwest Airports 1997-1999
 199719981999Detail for 1999
Cleveland Hopkins6633PD
Dayton Cox110 
Detroit Metro2611PD
Detroit Willow Run0021PD, 1VD
Flying Cloud, Minn2242PD, 1VD, 1OE
Indianapolis0511OE
Kansas City000 
Lincoln, Neb.0343PD, 1OE
Midway-Chicago2453PD, 2OE
Milwaukee Mitchell1431VD, 2OE
Minneapolis6232PD, 1OE
O'Hare-Chicago3363PD, 2VD, 1OE
Omaha Eppley2111PD
St. Louis Lambert7973PD, 3VD, 1OE
Springfield, MO2011PD
Wichita320 

PD: Pilot Deviation (airline)
VD: Vehicle or Pedestrian Deviation (airport)
OE: Operational Error by controller (FAA)

The FAA defines a runway incursion as “any occurrence at an airport that involves an aircraft, vehicle, person or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in loss of separation with an aircraft taking off, intending to take off, landing, or intending to land.”

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