Wait... You Mean It's NOT Wiring Bundles?
Despite the FAA's
recent to-do over skipped fuselage fatigue inspections... and the
cancellation of over 3,300 commercial airline flights due to
(barely) out-of-spec wiring harnesses... officials say the agency
shouldn't lose sight of real problems in the face of its
headline-making crackdown on airline safety.
In other words, according to those authorities... and we're
paraphrasing here... it's the runway incursions, stupid.
"Where we are most vulnerable at this moment is on the ground,"
NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker recently noted. "To me, this is the
most dangerous aspect of flying."
According to The New York Times, in a six-month period ending
March 30 there were 15 serious incursions at US airports, compared
with eight for the same period a year earlier. A 16th incursion
occurred at Dallas-Fort Worth International on April 6, when a tug
operator failed to hold short of an active runway... and pulled a
Boeing 777 into the path of a landing airliner, which reportedly
missed the tug by about 25 feet.
That incident is particularly egregious, given the FAA's
much-touted 2005 installation of a runway lighting system intended
to curb such incidents at DFW. Following successful trials at DFW
and San Diego, the so-called Runway Status Lights are due to be
installed at LAX and Boston's Logan International Airport later
As ANN reported, such
incursions were the topic of an industry hearing before the House
Subcommittee on Aviation. The February meeting included
representatives from the FAA and the air traffic controllers'
union, as well as industry groups including the Aircraft Owners and
Pilots Association and Airports Council International-North
Those in attendance
suggested a number of possible remedies, some more high-tech than
others. ACI-NA noted close to 200 airports planned to repaint
runway markings by the end of 2008, making runway hold-short lines
There are other solutions, including sophisticated in-cockpit
warning systems. Such warning devices aren't required by the FAA,
however, and some fear the agency's intent to vastly upgrade the
nation's air traffic control network (NextGen) will delay
widespread adoption of such technologies.
"You can fly an aircraft across the Pacific or across the
Atlantic, and at any point in that journey you know where you are
within about three meters, until you get on the ground," notes
Randy Babbitt, former president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
"If you’ve got a GPS in your car, you have infinitely more
detailed information about where you are than in the cockpit of an
airplane on the ground at Kennedy."
Others say it's just as well such advanced systems aren't
mandated... as current devices aren't failure-proof, and most are
prohibitively expensive. Nearly all runway incursions are the
result of pilot error, not equipment faults -- leading many to
suggest if pilots were more vigilant on the ground, there would be