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What You Need to Know About Runway Incursions

If you are like a majority of Americans, you fly for pleasure or business from time to time. If you are also like many people across the country, when there is a major airplane catastrophe, you see and hear about it in the news and pay at least some attention to what has occurred. If you are also like most men and women in the United States, you may not be aware of when and where a plane passenger faces the greatest threat of becoming involved in an accident.

The greatest risk of an accident on an airplane is on the tarmac and runway when an aircraft is in the process of taking off or is landing and taxiing to a gate. One of the reasons this is the case is because of what are known as runway incursions. In basic terms, a runway incursion occurs when another aircraft, some type of vehicle or object, or even an individual has encroached within the protected space of an airplane that is in the process of taking off or landing. The Federal Aviation Administration defines how much space and clearance an individual aircraft should have when on a runway during the takeoff or landing processes.

In a moment, we will provide you with some more specific information about runway incursions. Before diving into that, however, we share information about the deadliest commercial airplane accident that occurred in history. That horrific accident involved a runway incursion involving two 747s that collided.

Runway Collision: Deadliest Commercial Airplane Accident in History

The deadliest commercial airplane runway collision occurred on March 27th, 1977, when two Boeing 747s collided on the runway at Tenerife-Los Rodeos Airport in Spain. Flight KLM 4805 was taking off from the airport, while Pan Am Flight 1736 had just arrived and was taxiing along the runway. The intense fog reduced visibility to such a degree that neither plane could see the other; KLM 4805 took off without realizing there was another plane on the same runway. As a result, it collided into Pan Am Flight 1736 and both planes were destroyed in a violent explosion.

The tragedy resulted in 583 fatalities, the highest death toll of any modern airplane accident. Only 61 people managed to survive the crash. This incident is considered to be one of the worst aviation disasters in history due to its staggering loss of life as well as its preventable nature.

Four Categories of Runway Incursions

The Federal Aviation Administration has created four categories of runway incursions:

  • Category A is a serious incident in which a collision was narrowly avoided.
  • Category B is an incident in which separation decreases and there is a significant potential for collision, which may result in a time critical corrective/evasive response to avoid a collision.
  • Category C is an incident characterized by ample time and/or distance to avoid a collision.
  • Category D is an incident that meets the definition of runway incursion such as incorrect presence of a single vehicle/person/aircraft on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft but with no immediate safety consequences.

In addition to the four categories of runway incursions, the Federal Aviation Administration has identified three primary underlying causes for these events:

  • Operational incidents
  • Pilot deviations
  • Vehicle of pedestrian deviations

Operational Incidents

Action of an Air Traffic Controller that results in less than required minimum separation between two or more aircraft. Operational incidents can also include less than the required minimum separation between an aircraft and obstacles that include vehicles, equipment, or personnel on runways. Operational incidents can also include clearing an aircraft to take off or land on a closed runway.

Pilot Deviations

Action of a pilot that violates any Federal Aviation Regulation. An example is such a violation is a pilot who crosses a runway without a clearance while enroute to an airport gate.

Vehicle or Pedestrian Deviations

Pedestrians or vehicles entering any portion of the airport movement areas (runways or taxiways) without authorization from air traffic control are examples of vehicle or pedestrian deviations.

Your Legal Rights After an Aircraft Injury

If you have been injured in some type aircraft incident, you need to consult with an experienced airplane accident lawyer like a member of the Doan Law Firm legal team. You can schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you with a skilled airplane accident attorney from our firm by calling us at (800) 349-0000. The Doan Law Firm never charges a fee unless we win your case for you.

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