May 19 — Air traffic controllers are now giving more detailed directions to pilots and airport vehicle operators to improve runway safety by reducing mistakes.
Starting May 19, controllers must tell pilots and airport vehicle operators the specific route an aircraft or vehicle should follow across the airfield, instead of simply giving them an intended destination point. The new mandatory detailed instructions require controllers to name the specific taxiways the aircraft or vehicle should use at each step along its route.
FAA safety officials developed the new procedure to help eliminate pilot or driver confusion about which route to follow on the airport surface. The more detailed instructions are designed to reduce runway incursions caused by controller, pilot or vehicle driver mistakes.
Safety Risk Management experts from the FAA's Flight Standards, Air Traffic, Airports and human factors offices evaluated the new procedure, along with pilot associations.
Using a safety management system process to identify possible risks, the panel looked at taxi instructions already in use at several facilities. The group also analyzed several risk factors, such as longer periods of communication between controllers and pilots, and the increased chance of miscommunication. They concluded that the new procedure was safe.
The FAA's Runway Safety Call to Action committee identified the new taxi instructions as one of several procedural changes that could significantly improve runway safety. The Safety Risk Management panel is also reviewing recommendations for changes in takoff and landing clearance procedures.