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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Ending Serious Close Calls

The U.S. aviation system is the safest in the world, but one close call is one too many. In February 2023 the FAA issued a Safety Call to Action to take a critical look at the U.S. aerospace system’s structure, culture, processes, systems, and integration of safety efforts.

The FAA and the aviation community are pursuing a goal of zero serious close calls by examining a combination of technical and human factors. The same approach virtually eliminated the risk of fatalities aboard U.S. commercial airlines. Since 2009, U.S. carriers have transported more than the world’s population with no fatal crashes.

The FAA maintains extremely conservative standards for keeping aircraft safely separated. Safety experts follow up on all events — even those in which no collision was imminent or even possible — and evaluate them for safety risks. 

Taking Action

  1. Established a new advisory rulemaking committee to investigate the requirement of new technologies, such as cockpit-alerting systems, to improve runway safety.

  2. Issued a safety alert to ensure operations are conducted at the highest level of safety, including changes to procedures or training. 

  3. Announced steps the agency’s Air Traffic Organization will take to ensure supervisors devote their full attention to the operation and airfield during peak traffic.  

  4. Formed Independent Aviation Safety Review Team to examine ways to enhance safety and reliability.

  5. Invested $121M to reduce runway incursions at 8 airports, in addition to the more than $100M invested in 12 airports earlier this year.

  6. Launched Controller “Stand Up for Safety” Campaign

  7. Began the search for the new surface situational awareness tool

  8. Runway safety meetings scheduled at approximately 90 airports

  9. Issued alert to prevent injuries to ground crews

Understanding Runway Safety Components

Multiple layers of safety protect the traveling public, including: Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems on commercial aircraft, surface safety technology at the country's biggest airports, and robust procedures. Human factors including runway signage, air traffic controllers, and pilots all play critical roles. The agency has hired 1,500 controllers for FY2023. This is in addition to the more than 2,600 controllers that are at various levels of training at air traffic facilities across the country.

Runway Incursion Data 

A runway incursion is any occurrence at an airport involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on a runway. Incursions are caused by operational incidents, pilot deviations, and vehicle/pedestrian deviations; and they vary greatly in type and severity.

runway incursion data chart

The number and rate of serious runway incursions are steadily declining since the pandemic.

Cause of runway incursions for CY2023:  

  • 60% are Pilot Deviations 
  • 20% are Operational Incidents 
  • 20% are Vehicle/Pedestrian deviations 

categories of runway incursions

Last updated: Monday, September 18, 2023