Surface Safety: Wrong-Surface Events

Tuesday, September 25, 2018
  • A wrong-surface event occurs when an aircraft lands or departs, or tries to land or depart, on the wrong runway or on a taxiway. It also occurs when an aircraft lands or tries to land at the wrong airport.

  • Reducing the risk of wrong-surface events is one of the FAA’s top priorities.

  • Last month, the FAA held a Safety Summit with a cross section of government and aviation industry representatives to examine factors that cause wrong-surface operations, barriers to overcome and solutions to these incidents.

  • Because the FAA has already taken a wide range of actions to improve runway safety, the goal of the Safety Summit was to increase awareness of and commitment to addressing wrong-surface operations.

  • The FAA is working closely with the aviation industry to determine the most effective ways to reduce the risk of wrong-surface events.

  • A number of groups will continue to monitor and track the issue. These include the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, and the Runway Safety Council, which is a collaborative effort with industry and labor organization to analyze and address the root causes of runway incursions.   

  • These efforts will augment a wide range of steps already taken to improve runway safety.

  • One of the most important runway-safety technologies, which is in place at 35 major airports, is Airport Surface Detection Equipment – Model X (ASDE-X). ASDE-X enables air traffic controllers to detect potential runway conflicts by providing detailed coverage of movement on runways and taxiways.

  • The FAA last September began testing a modification to the ASDE-X system to detect, and issue alerts on, aircraft that are lined up for taxiways.

  • The modification, called Taxiway Arrival Prediction enhancement, enables the ASDE-X software to expand the alerting parameter to include taxiways. The challenge was to create a modification that did not degrade the system’s ability to issue runway alerts.

  • The FAA flight-checked the system in January under a variety of scenarios. These included lining up for a taxiway to ensure the system alerted, and turning late onto its final approach, to make sure the system did not alert. The system worked as intended in all scenarios.

  • The FAA will evaluate all 35 ASDE-X systems nationwide for the modification. The FAA expects to complete evaluations for 14 of these sites by the end of the first quarter in Fiscal Year 2019.

  • Other steps taken by the FAA include: highlighting the issue of wrong-surface events in recurrent training for controllers; resolving runway geometry issues to help pilot perception of landing surfaces; and outreach to pilots, flight instructors and flight schools to increase awareness of wrong-surface events.