FAA raises runway safety concerns

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Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013 4:20 pm

SARASOTA - The Federal Aviation Administration warns about an increase of planes not being where they should be on runways at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. They call them "runway incursions."

But does that mean an increased risk of danger for people flying at the airport?

These "runway incursions" are anytime something is on a runway when it shouldn't be. That can range from a collision on a runway, to a pilot taking a wrong turn as he taxis to a runway that turns out to be completely harmless.

The airport's president, Rick Piccolo says that the increase does not mean increased danger. “FAA is making a real effort to lessen runway incursions, and part of that effort is recording it more so it shows an increase.”

Piccolo says that more stringent accounting makes the problem seem much worse than it is. In years past, no one had to report incursions that posed no danger.

But flight instructor Dave Armbrust doesn't mind the nit-picking. “If we avoid the loss of separation or the aircraft being in the wrong places, we will reduce the number of near misses or collisions.”

The FAA blames pilots, saying they don't know the runways' layouts, or understand instructions from the control tower. But the FAA also cites air traffic controllers not giving clear enough guidance. “The tower will tell us how they want us to go to a particular runway.”

So he stresses reading taxi diagrams and communicating with the tower when he teaches. He says that the numbers should not scare us.

And the airport also insists that the skies are just as safe, and so is ground beneath their wings. “I think it has actually increased the safety level because the recording level is much more stringent.”

Piccolo also points out that the airport has no control over pilots, and that the FAA supervises the air traffic controllers.

He says the airport does manage the trucks and other vehicles, and that not only do the drivers have a special license and extensive training, but that the airport spent millions to build roads that go around the runways so that trucks have little reason ever to drive on the runways.

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