FAA Highlights Runway Collision Risks

New guidance warns the highest risk for incursions occurs in the first two-thirds of an active runway.


In a new Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO 17012,High Collision Risk During Runway Crossing), the FAA in November warned pilots of the risks associated with runway incursions and that their risk is highest in the first two-thirds of the runway. Additionally, the SAFO highlighted new guidance to be added to FAA Order JO 7110.65,Air Traffic Control, the primary reference for air traffic controllers. The FAA’s SAFO also made numerous recommendations to pilots, controllers and vehicle operators. The sidebar below describes the two type of runway incursions with which the FAA is primarily concerned and the results of a three-year study of data gleaned from the Airport Surveillance Detection Equipment Model X (ASDE-X) in operation at numerous large airports in the U.S.

According to the SAFO, the following paragraph will be added to the ATC Order: “Crossing of active runway(s) by aircraft/vehicle(s): 1. During departure operations, ensure that aircraft/vehicles intending to cross a runway do not cross the runway holding position markings until the controller visually observes the departure aircraft in a turn, or the departure aircraft has passed the point where the crossing aircraft/vehicle is located, regardless of altitude, unless authorized in FAA Order JO 7110.65, 3-10-10, Altitude Restricted Low Approach.”

The SAFO also made specific recommendations to pilots in avoiding runway incursions. They include:

• Actively listen to Air Traffic Control (ATC);

• Maintain high awareness of runway hold lines;

• Remain clear of the runway hold lines unless you are certain you have received a clearance to cross the runway, line up and wait (LUAW) or take off;

• Ensure there is no aircraft that could overfly your aircraft and that the runway is completely clear before entering it for takeoff; and

• After receiving a LUAW clearance, expect a communication from ATC within 90 seconds. (Reference AC 120-74(7)(c)(9) and AC 91-73, Appendix 3).

An additional reference with which the agency encourages aircraft and vehicle operator familiarity is its “Runway Safety Best Practices,” which is duplicated in the sidebar on the opposite page.

Plotting Runway Incursions


The FAA’s Airport Surveillance Detection Equipment Model X (ASDE-X) essentially is a radar system optimized to detect vehicles and aircraft on an airport’s surface, and identify potential collisions. Data from the system collected from fiscal years 2014 through 2016 was used to plot locations of potential conflicts.

The data were organized into two categories of runway incursions: Category A, which denotes a serious incident in which a collision is narrowly avoided and Category B, 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. Results from the 2014-2016 data are plotted in the graphic below, showing that both types of events predominated in the first two-thirds of the active runway.

Midair With Blackhawk Was Drone Pilot’s Fault—NTSB

On September 21, 2017, a U.S. Army UH-60M Blackhawk helicopter, the lead ship in a flight of two, collided with a DJI Phantom 4 small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) over Hoffman Island, N.Y., an artificial island in the Lower New York Bay near New York City. The sUAS was destroyed, and pieces of it were lodged in the helicopter. A 1.5-inch dent was found on the leading edge of one of the UH-60’s main rotor blades, surrounded by various scratches and material transfer. Some cracks were observed in the composite fairing and window frame material. The Blackhawk safely returned to its base at Linden, N.J. There were no injuries.

The NTSB’s investigation found the probable causes of the incident to include “the failure of the sUAS pilot to see and avoid the helicopter due to his intentional flight beyond visual line of sight. Contributing to the incident was the sUAS pilot’s incomplete knowledge of the regulations and safe operating practices.”

Several portions of the NTSB’s report on the incident are worth quoting in full. For example, the NTSB said, “During the incident flight, the pilot of the sUAS intentionally flew the aircraft 2.5 miles away, well beyond visual line of sight and was just referencing the map on his tablet; therefore, he was not aware that the helicopter was in close proximity to the sUAS….

“In addition, even though the sUAS pilot indicated that he knew there were frequently helicopters in the area, he still elected to fly his sUAS beyond visual line of sight, demonstrating his lack of understanding of the potential hazard of collision with other aircraft. In his interview, the sUAS pilot indicated that he was not concerned with flying beyond visual line of sight, and he expressed only a general cursory awareness of regulations and good operating practices.”

According to the NTSB, temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) were in effect for the airspace in which the collision occurred due to a United Nations General Assembly meeting. The Army Blackhawk was authorized for flight in the area but the sUAS was not. “The sUAS pilot was unaware of the active TFRs in the area that specifically prohibited both model aircraft and UAS flight. Further, the sUAS pilot relied only on the DJI GO4 app for airspace awareness.”

The DJI GO4 app incorporates what the company calls Geospatial Environment Online, or GEO, which the company says is a “geospatial information system providing DJI users with up-to-date guidance on areas where flight may be limited due to safety concerns or regulations.” However, according to the NTSB, DJI had disabled the GEO functionality of the app due to user-identified problems. Additionally, the sUAS pilot’s tablet—used to control the aircraft—lacked cellular capability and was unable to download information from the internet regarding the takeoff location’s airspace restrictions.

The NTSB’s report stated, “Therefore, at the time of the incident, no TFR information was available in GEO. Since GEO is meant to be an advisory system to pilots, DJI decided it was better to disable this feature until the problem could be corrected to enable authorized users to support recovery efforts and other authorized missions across the country, including firefighting response and demonstrations at air shows. There was no notice or advisory to users that this advisory function had been disabled. The TFR functionality in GEO was restored in October 2017.”

Debris from the sUAS, including a motor, was found in the helicopter’s engine oil cooler fan. The components were transferred to the FAA and then the NTSB. Serial number information on the motor and sales records were used to identify the pilot.

Runway Safety Best Practices

Vertical Graphic


  • Review and understand airfield signage and markings.
  • Review the appropriate airport diagrams. Review any Hot Spots identified on the diagram. Print a copy for use in the cockpit.
  • Review airfield Notams and the current ATIS for any taxiway closures, runway closures, construction activity, or other airfield specific risks.
  • Brief any passengers on the importance to minimize discussions, questions, and conversation during taxi (maintain a “sterile cockpit”).


  • Have the airport diagram out and available for immediate reference during taxi.
  • Review current ATIS for any taxiway closures, runway closures, construction activity, or other airfield specific risks.
  • During radio transmissions, use correct terminology and proper voice cadence.
  • Copy the taxi clearance and use the airport diagram to review the taxi route to the assigned runway prior to releasing brakes and beginning taxi.
  • Eliminate distractions while taxiing in the operational area.
  • Focus attention and have your “eyes out” of the cockpit when taxiing.
  • Maintain appropriate taxi speed.
  • Be alert to similar call signs operating on the field.
  • Stop the aircraft on the taxiway and request ATC clarification if there is confusion regarding aircraft position or ATC taxi clearance.
  • Prior to crossing any runway during taxi, ensure you have a clearance to cross. Visually check to ensure there is no conflicting traffic prior to crossing the runway.
  • If there is any doubt that the runway is clear, reconfirm crossing clearance with ATC.
  • Be aware that hold short lines can be as far as 400 feet from the runway due to new Precision Obstacle Free Zone (POFZ) requirements.
  • Maintain a “sterile cockpit” when taxiing.


  • If cleared to “line up and wait,” turn on all exterior lights except takeoff/landing lights.
  • If you have been holding in position on the runway for more than 90 seconds, or upon seeing a potential conflict, contact the tower.
  • When “cleared for takeoff,” turn on all exterior lights, including take-off/landing lights.
  • Note that if you see an aircraft in takeoff position on a runway with takeoff/landing lights on, that aircraft has most likely received its takeoff clearance and will be departing immediately.
  • When assigned a departure at an intersection versus a full-length takeoff, state “intersection departure” at the end of the take-off clearance readback.
  • Conduct “Clearing Turns” to check all areas prior to entering ANY runway.


  • Wait until you have exited the active runway and you are sure of your taxi clearance prior to beginning an after-landing checklist.
  • Follow the same TAXI Best Practices, above.

Turbocharger V-Band Couplings Revisited

The FAA on December 14, 2017, published a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) alerting the industry of its concerns regarding the failure of v-band couplings used in exhaust systems on turbocharged aircraft. According to the SAIB (CE-18-07), cracks “originating out of a spot weld, on multi-segment, spot welded, v-band couplings have led to separation of the outer band and failure of the v-band coupling to retain the tailpipe or exhaust inlet pipe on all turbocharged, reciprocating engine powered aircraft, including rotorcraft.” Existing airworthiness directives (ADs) focused on numerous aircraft models are not affected by the SAIB, although such documents often are used by the FAA as a precursor to a formal rulemaking designed to establish an AD.

According to the SAIB, “The basic design used by manufacturers to attach the tailpipe or exhaust inlet pipe to the turbocharger housing by means of a v-band coupling is common to over 150 different models of single-engine and multi-engine airplanes and rotorcraft. All turbocharger exhaust tailpipe v-band couplings are intended to couple and retain the exhaust tailpipe to the turbocharger housing, exhaust flange.” Three recent accidents or incidents involving cracked and/or separated multi-segment, spot welded, v-band couplings resulted in four fatalities.

The failures often “occur shortly after an annual inspection,” which the FAA says calls into question the adequacy of such inspections. Failure of the couplings can result in 1600-degree F exhaust gases being directed onto engine and airframe components, possibly leading to in-flight fires and loss of the aircraft.


The graphic at right was extracted from the SAIB and highlights areas of the clamps the FAA believes warrant additional attention during inspections. We encourage all operators of turbocharged piston-powered aircraft to obtain a copy of the SAIB and share it with their maintenance personnel.

AOPA Bahamas, Caribbean Guidebooks Updated


It’s winter in North America, a time when a pilot’s thoughts turn to flying off to warmer climes. Just in time, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has released updated and redesigned 2018 versions of its comprehensive guide books for the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

The association’s new guides feature comprehensive customs and immigration guidance on all related destinations, plus getting back into the U.S. Both spiral-bound volumes have been substantially revised throughout and feature detailed airport information, including fuel availability, hours of operation, ground transportation and nearby attractions. Also included are airport diagrams, survival tips, general information on jurisdictional requirements and details on U.S. regulations regarding international operation of private aircraft (i.e., eAPIS, the Electronic Aircraft Passenger Information System). Examples of important flight planning and customs forms are included, and originals are available free for the download from the association’s web site.

The new Guides are available for purchase from the AOPA web site, www.aopa.org.

Contaminated Jet Fuel Highlighted By FAA

Another Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB HQ-18-08R1, now in its first revision) highlights a recent episode in which several aircraft inadvertently were serviced with jet fuel contaminated with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), a urea-based chemical that is not approved for use in jet fuel. The servicing occurred between November 18 and November 21, 2017, at the Eppley Air Field Airport, Omaha, Neb. (KOMA).

Affected aircraft are identified in the SAIB by type, serial number and registration. Some received fuel contaminated with DEF and some were serviced by equipment exposed to the chemical. The FAA recommends affected operators contact their engine manufacturer for guidance on remedial actions and requests reports on any service difficulties encountered, including fuel system repairs. The agency cautions that any fuel removed from the affected aircraft listed should be diverted to non-aviation use.


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