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FAA aims for safer runways

Runway safety remains a top priority as runway guard lights and arrival alert notices appear at airports across the country.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Runway incursions in the national airspace system have been an ongoing concern, and one that is only exacerbated by recent high-profile incursions by commercial aircraft. However, general aviation still accounts for the highest percentage of runway incursions each year. To reduce the likelihood of these events, the FAA has taken the lead on runway guard lights (RGLs) and arrival alert notices, working with AOPA and industry groups on initiatives including creation of teams to specifically address runway and surface operation safety.

Arrival alert notices are graphics visually depicting the approach at an airport that prevent pilots from making mistakes such as approaching and landing on the wrong runway or landing on a taxiway. In May 2022, the FAA introduced the first batch of these notices at airports with a history of misalignment risk. In January, additional and updated arrival alert notices were released—now 40 airports have notices that can help serve as an additional planning and awareness tool for pilots to help prevent misalignment.

The FAA is also exploring RGLs as a cost-effective method of preventing runway incursions and attempting to determine which type are most effective in various circumstances.

In a recent study, the FAA’s NextGen Technology Development and Prototyping Division collected feedback from pilots and airport vehicle operators to assess RGLs, which are embedded or elevated flashing yellow lights that are installed at the intersection of the runway and taxiway. With the intention to use RGLs to mitigate runway incursions, the survey explored their usefulness.

Most survey respondents said they had previous knowledge of, and firsthand experience with, RGLs, and indicated the lights offered increased awareness and visibility of hold short lines—with about half of the participants reporting a personal experience in which an RGL prevented them from crossing a hold short line or entering a runway. Additionally, many of the more than 700 pilots and drivers surveyed said that they think RGLs are effective at improving runway safety through runway incursion prevention and would advocate for the expanded use and installation of the RGL system at more airports.

AOPA looks forward to these advancements in runway infrastructure that will make airports safer.

Lillian Geil
Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: Advocacy, Training and Safety, Situational Awareness

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