2021 Safety forum: Tackling the risk of runway excursions together

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Landing airplane at an airport at sunset

Preventing runway excursions was the top theme at this year’s Safety Forum, which saw 300+ aviation operation professionals join the most important operational aviation safety event of the year, held online and co-organised by the Flight Safety Foundation, the European Regions Airline Association and EUROCONTROL.

Runway excursions, when aircraft unintentionally veer off or overrun the runway on arrival or departure, remain one of the most serious risks in aviation, comprising 23% of all accidents pre-COVID – a problem explicitly tackled in the recently released Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Excursion, or GAPPRE for short.

The 2021 Safety forum offered safety experts the chance to discuss GAPPRE and how it can be applied to achieve safety improvements. In the Safety Forum Executive Panel, which saw EUROCONTROL’s Director General Eamonn Brennan join Gilberto Lopez Meyer, Senior Vice-President of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General at Airports Council International (ACI) and Simon Hocquard, Director General of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), the panellists agreed that improved cooperation and information-sharing on the new recommendations will play an important part in preventing runway excursions, especially as there is no technical quick fix for adverse weather conditions, or the pressure to maximise runway utilisation.

The forum concluded that safety experts need a comprehensive approach to tackle the risk by looking at runway condition maintenance and reporting, aircraft performance and operations, and collaborative approach path management, as well as adhering to robust policies for safe descent and approach planning, stabilised approach, safe landing and go-around.

With global aviation still struggling to recover from the pandemic, the forum also considered the real challenge to safety posed when operations are at a fraction of their pre-pandemic levels.

“Over half of the world’s fleet is parked. 60% of the world’s pilots are not flying. We are looking at a systemic risk of people returning to service not having operated. The recovery, when it comes, will be challenging – with rusty flight crews & controllers unused to the usual volumes of traffic.”

Eamonn Brennan Director General, EUROCONTROL

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