Would Add 15 Percent Safety Margin To Calculations
Less than two weeks before an NTSB
hearing into last December's runway overrun accident at Chicago's
Midway airport, the FAA has proposed tougher standards for how
airline pilots compute available landing distances.
Current regulations -- which require commercial airline pilots
to calculate before takeoff the needed runway length at their
destination -- weighs such factors as touchdown speed, landing
weight and wind conditions. Considerable safety margins are built
into those calculations, to take into account changing weather
conditions and other factors.
What the current regs don't require, however, is for pilots to
recalculate those figures en route in the face of deteriorating
conditions at the destination airport.
Under the proposed guidelines, the FAA would require all pilots
to recompute landing distances enroute should weather take a turn
for the worse -- and to build in an extra 15 percent margin of
safety into those landing distance figures, just to be on the
USA Today reports several airlines have their own procedures in
place now for such occurrences -- but there is no standardized
Had the new regulations been in place last December, it is
likely the Southwest Airlines jet that overran the runway at Midway
in a snowstorm -- and struck two cars on a nearby road, killing a
young occupant in one -- would have been diverted to another
airport instead, as new landing distance calculations would have
shown the jet was at the edge of, or outside, the margin of safety
for Midway's short runways.
The FAA's proposal is a slightly different take on handling
runway overruns than what the NTSB has proposed. Two weeks after
the Midway accident, the safety board urged the FAA to reexamine
some airlines' use of thrust reversers when calculating landing
distances. The pilots on the Southwest Airlines jet had difficulty
activating the reversers.
"We think that this approach will give us an even broader safety
benefit than the NTSB's recommendation," FAA spokeswoman Laura
No word yet on what the NTSB thinks of the FAA's proposal, which
could go into effect on September 1... nor how the airlines feel
about adopting a regulation that would likely lead to more diverted