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CFI Brief: Runway Incursion, Disaster Averted.

Reading Monday’s post you learned that a pilot deviation (PD) is a pilot action that violates any Federal Aviation Regulation. The two broad categories of PDs are ground- or surface-based deviation and airborne deviation. A common example of a surface-based deviation would be a runway incursion, which just is today’s topic.

Runway Incursion: any occurrence in the airport runway environment involving an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in a loss of required separation with an aircraft taking off, intending to take off, landing, or intending to land.

I experienced my first runway incursion early on in my flight training; it was a rather bizarre situation. I was at a small non-towered airport just north of Daytona Beach, FL conducting my second of three full-stop landings to accomplish my first solo. The airfield consisted of two 5,000-foot runways and two closed runways that were no longer in service. During my first loop in the pattern, I noticed several motorcycles zooming around the tarmac on one of the closed runways. As a student pilot I thought that to be kind of odd but put it out of my mind as I was worried enough about getting the airplane back on the ground for the first time. The first loop in the pattern and landing went off without a hitch, the gear didn’t shear off nor did I pop a tire. I was now on short final for my second full-stop landing and out of the corner of my eye I see this dude on his Harley take a left off the taxiway right onto the runway in front of me. Yes, there is now a Harley Davidson cruising down the middle of the runway in which I am intending to land on in about 10 seconds. I momentarily froze thinking what the heck, then heard my instructor come over the radio via his hand-held yelling, “go-around, go-around!” Well yes, I would prefer not to kill anyone today so a go-around seems like a great idea! Full throttle, flaps up, and the go-around was initiated. The guy on his Harley still oblivious to the fact he almost got rear ended by a 17 year old in a 2,000 pound Cessna 172 with a giant spinning propeller. After the go-around, I completed my final two landings and once back on the ground my instructor and I had a pretty colorful debrief about the flight and the bozo on his cruiser.

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This was probably one of the best things I could have experienced early on in my training, an actual runway incursion requiring a go-around. It gave me confidence and an awareness of the consequences of what could happen. Some of the best learning is through actual experience and learning from others’ mistakes. Now in my particular situation I was lucky not to have been the one who made the mistake, but in this FAA Safety simulation you will see a real life event of a pilot deviation resulting in a runway incursion. The PD occurred on January 5th 2007 in overcast conditions with visibility 0.5 miles in fog and snow.

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After watching this simulation, did you note the lack of situational awareness the pilots displayed? You would think that operating in the conditions that were present that day the crew of this flight would have displayed a heightened sense of awareness to their surroundings. There were several cues in which the pilots should have picked up on denoting that they had taxied onto an active runway. The simulation points out a few specifics like: the change in pavement, signage, runway lighting, and runway markings. It was fortunate that this PD did not result in an accident but as you can see from the simulation it was very close. Remember to always keep your head outside the cockpit and be aware; if confused or unsure ask for additional instructions from the controller.

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