And Pilots Need To Use The Right One
More than half of all the commercial airports in the US don't
have a 1,000 foot safety overrun margin or an "arrestor bed" at the
runway departure end, the FAA reported Friday.
This includes runways at some of the nations's busiest airports
including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta's international
airports. Numerous other mid-sized airports also fall short such as
Milwaukee, Phoenix, Miami, and Honolulu.
Last year, congress passed a law requiring that airports meet
the FAA runway requirement by 2015. This was a reaction to a
Southwest 737 overshooting an icy runway in Chicago that fatally
injured a young boy riding in a car on a nearby street.
The statistic is not quite as dire, though, because the 50%
figure refers to the total number of runways at all airports. FAA
spokeswoman Laura Brown says "Today, 70 percent of
commercial-service runways have a runway safety area within 90
percent of the standard."
However, according to Hawaii's Dept of Transportation spokesman
Scott Ishikawa, "Not every runway has the luxury of 1,000 feet for
a safety zone. There may be physical limitations for certain
runways that we'll have to look at."
The FAA had previously said the mandate would only be enforced
"where practicable" because so many airports are now situated in
urban areas or in geographic regions where expansion is
impossible. The alternative is to build soft concrete overruns that
would help the aircraft slow down by essentially bogging down the
landing gear. Brown said she expects that all runways will have
either solution by the mandated deadline.
And speaking of
runways, on Thursday Nicholas A. Sabatini, the associate
administrator for aviation safety for the FAA admitted that over
the past decade, there were at least 117 cases of runway confusion
that resulted in either temporarily lining up or actually using the
wrong runway for take-off or landings.
Besides last weeks mistaken landing
on a taxiway in Newark, NJ by a Continental 757, there was the
tragic takeoff accident of the Comair
CRJ in Lexington, KY in August -- both results of
pilot confusion of runway assignment.
Both the FAA and the NTSB have convened task forces to study the
problem of runway incursion and confusion and how to reduce the
number of incidents.