Held On Anniversary Of Tenerife Accident
On Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of
the deadliest runway incursion in history, NTSB Chairman Mark
Rosenker called for more to be done to prevent similar
It was March 27, 1977 when two Boeing 747s collided on a foggy
runway in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, killing 583 people. In
the last 17 years, the NTSB chief noted, an additional 63 people
have been killed in the United States alone by similar runway
In many more cases, disasters were averted by margins too small
for anyone's comfort. An animation showing a near-miss at Denver
International Airport (DEN) was shown at the conference. As Aero-News reported in
January, a Frontier Airlines A319 was about to touch
down on the runway when the pilots and controllers spotted a Key
Lime commuter plane that had "strayed" onto the runway.
"We’ve been living on luck for too long," Rosenker said,
reports the New York Times. "That is not a good way to run a
national aviation system."
Nearly every day on the nation's runways, a plane gets too close
to another aircraft or even a vehicle on the ground. Again at DEN,
a United Airlines 737 was on a take-off
roll when the crew saw a snowplow on the runway. The
pilots applied maximum braking power and reverse thrusters to stop
before they collided.
The conference brought together Investigative and Regulatory
Panelists from the NTSB, Canada's Transportation Safety Bureau, the
FAA, USAF and USN. Pilot and Controller groups were also in
attendance as well as Industry representatives, who would be
directly effected by any changes made.
Three different airports are currently testing systems to combat
the problem. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has been
testing a series of ground based stoplights, while Long Beach uses
on sensors in the runway pavement -- similar to street traffic
signals -- to alert planes on approach to land that the runway is
not clear. And Spokane International Airport in Washington is
testing yet another system where short range radar is used.
Last week, the FAA announced it is working on a GPS type mapping
solution for pilots to use in the cockpits providing them with real
time runway status information. Jeffrey Loague, Director for the
Air Traffic Organization - Safety Services' Risk Reduction
Information Office, has said that a product could be on the market
around mid year.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has said that a system providing
a screen in every cockpit to illustrate a crew's position as well
as all other planes on the ground at an airport, using data from
GPS would be the long term goal.
Anticipation for something to be done is evident, as one
conference attendee, Capt. Mitchell Serber of the Air Line Pilots
Association urged: "Where we have failed is putting these
technologies together out in the field. Let's get on with it."