Reducing the Risk of Landing Accidents and Runway Overruns

by Martin J. Eley, Director General, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Day in and day out, week after week, thousands of aircraft land in Canadian aerodromes without incident. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Air travel is a complex issue and landing aircraft can be equally difficult. With unpredictable factors such as weather conditions, the surrounding terrain and human error, the fact remains that accidents can and do happen.

On August 2, 2005, an Air France Airbus A340 was unable to stop on runway 24L at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The flight landed during reports of exceptionally bad weather—severe winds, heavy rain, and localized thunderstorms—and touched down further along the runway than usual. The aircraft came to rest in a nearby shallow ravine and burst into flames approximately 300 m past the end of the runway. There were 309 people on board: 297 passengers (2 of whom were infants) and 9 crew members. Fortunately, everyone survived and successfully evacuated the aircraft, with only 12 passengers sustaining serious injuries.

The Transportation Safety Board (TBS) investigated this accident and on March 16, 2010, they issued a watchlist of items that highlight safety concerns or safety recommendations made to Transport Canada (TC). One of the watchlist items refers to landing accidents and runway overruns. A runway overrun is an occurrence where an aircraft departs from or lands on the end or one side of the runway.

TC has taken a number of actions to reduce the risk of landing accidents and runway overruns and to address the TSB’s watchlist.

Regulations and standards

Since 2006, requirements have been in place governing landings in low visibility conditions. These regulations clearly set out the minimum conditions for landings in poor visibility. This prohibits air operators from attempting a landing when visibility is so poor that a successful landing is unlikely.

A regulatory amendment on safe winter runway operations was published in the Canada Gazette Part I: Notices and Proposed Regulations. The proposal would require airport operators to develop standardized procedures related to winter runway maintenance. The proposal would also require accurate and timely reporting of surface conditions at airports in winter. These measures will lead to more reliable and safer transportation for those using Canadian airports during the winter.

Additionally, TP 312 – Aerodrome Standards and Recommended Practices is being revised in cooperation with industry experts. The updated document will address:

  • providing additional visual aids for pilots to help assess landing distances;

  • harmonizing Canadian and international runway end safety area (RESA) standards; and

  • recognizing the engineered material arresting system (EMAS)1 as an added measure to increase safety.

TC agrees that RESA is a vital component of its risk reduction plan and is committed to conforming to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 150 m RESA standard, while assessing the potential benefits of extending the RESA to 300 m. TC has therefore tabled Notices of Proposed Amendment (NPA) to the Canadian Aviation Regulations to adopt a 150 m total RESA requirement. These NPAs were considered at the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) Technical Committee meeting, which was held from November 15 to 17, 2010.

International cooperation

TC is an active participant in the ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission, Aerodrome Panel and Aerodrome Design Working Group. The purpose of this participation is to develop and harmonize international standards that will reduce runway overrun and undershoot accidents.

At the 2010 ICAO assembly, TC presented a working paper on runway safety that addressed incursions and excursions. At this same assembly, a proposal was made by ICAO to establish runway safety programs to prevent and mitigate runway accidents and incidents.

TC agreed with this proposal and noted that the establishment of a runway safety program should strive as much as possible to ensure that runway incursions and runway excursions are studied and defined separately. This would help to develop the best and most appropriate measures for each type of occurrence.

ICAO is also organizing a Global Runway Safety Symposium in 2011, in which TC looks forward to participating.

Landing accidents and runway overruns are an unfortunate reality in aviation. TC is committed to ongoing studies and analyses to identify the hazards and the dynamics that lead to these safety risks, as well as continuing to take action to maintain a high level of safety in the air, and on land.

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1 EMAS is an example of a ground arrestor system. EMAS is located beyond the end of the runway. It is designed to stop an overrunning aircraft by exerting deceleration forces on the aircraft’s landing gear. The application of EMAS can mean the difference between an accident and a minor incident. EMAS is a soft ground arrestor. This type of arrestor deforms under the weight of the aircraft tire as it runs over it. As the tires crush the material, the drag forces decelerate the aircraft and bring it to a safe stop. EMAS is popular in the U.S at airports that have difficulties complying with FAA rules on runway safety.

Nav Canada

Flight Planning: A Critical Layer of Protection from Wake Turbulence

by Dave Rye, Manager, Area Control Centre Operations Moncton, NAV CANADA

In recent years, NAV CANADA controllers have noticed a number of discrepancies between the weight categories in flight plans filed by air operators and the expected aircraft weight category. Most of these discrepancies are not errors, but even a small number of errors in filed flight plans should raise vigilance on the part of all pilots, dispatchers and air operators.

Impact of an incorrect weight category

Air traffic controllers depend on accurate weight category information in the flight plan to ensure safe wake turbulence separation. Wake turbulence is turbulent air behind an aircraft caused by any of the following:

  1. wing-tip vortices;

  2. rotor-tip vortices;

  3. jet-engine thrust stream or jet blast;

  4. rotor downwash;

  5. prop wash.

Wake turbulence is usually invisible, leaving pilots with no warning that they are flying into turbulence. This is the reason why, during takeoff and landing, air traffic controllers provide standard separation for all departing aircraft and for IFR traffic on approach.

There are a number of different factors that will affect the strength of the vortex, and how long it persists. The strength of the vortex is governed by the weight, speed, and shape of the wing of the generating aircraft.

The vortex characteristics of any given aircraft can also be changed by extension of flaps or other wing configuring devices as well as by a change in speed. However, as the basic factor is weight, the vortex strength increases proportionately.

In Canada, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Doc 8643, Aircraft Type Designators, is utilized to determine aircraft wake turbulence categories and to apply the appropriate separation standard as detailed in MANOPS (NAV CANADA, Manual of Operations). Turbulence category is determined by the aircraft maximum certificated take-off mass and not by the actual take-off weight of the aircraft.

Sources of discrepancies

ICAO Doc 8643 is very extensive, but within a specific model there can be model variants that have different take-off weights. While most would not be noticeable to air traffic control (ATC), some models can (and do) move from one turbulence category to another, such as the KingAir Model 350 (B350) and the SW4, which are shown as both light and medium (L/M).

Other aircraft may change categories due to certified weight increases for specific mission aircraft (such as AirTractor Model AT8T for agricultural or fire suppression flights) or for temporary certified increases for ferry flights.

One other aircraft of note is the B757, which, while identified as a medium category aircraft, has an increased separation requirement specific to that model due to wake characteristics for following aircraft.

What can you do?

For aircraft types listed in more than one category in ICAO Doc 8643, NAV CANADA controllers are not permitted to modify the weight category unless the pilot-in-command specifically identifies a weight category different than the one filed.

If you are filing a flight plan, double-check the weight category. Be sure that the filed weight category is reflective of the type of flight, flight permit or certificate that you are operating under, not the actual take-off weight of the aircraft. Doing so will ensure that the appropriate turbulence separation criteria is applied to your aircraft.

Instructor Refresher Courses Improve Flight Safety… and Renew your Rating

by Michael Schuster, Principal Consultant, Aviation Solutions

As of June 2010, there were over 3 000 Canadian flight instructor ratings in force1. As with instrument ratings and pilot proficiency checks (PPCs), the instructor rating is not valid forever and must be renewed. The flight instructor rating is based on a class system ranging from Class 4 to Class 1, with additional privileges granted to each successive class as instructors gain more experience and additional qualifications.

Many instructors elect to renew their ratings by undergoing a flight test, but there are, in fact, several different options for renewing an instructor rating. According to CAR 421.66, one way to renew an instructor rating is to attend a Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC). Many instructors are unfamiliar with, or reluctant to use, this method of renewal, so let’s take a look at what a FIRC is.

The FIRC originally began in 1951 as a Transport Canada (TC) initiative. Over the years, the program underwent several changes until its conclusion in 2007. TC then granted the flight training industry authority to conduct its own courses under General Aviation Advisory Circular (GAAC) 421-001.

As the GAAC points out, “The safety of flying in Canada depends on the competence of the pilots and the system that supports them. The competence of pilots depends in turn on the quality of the training system that produces them.”2

The instructor community needs to ask the following question: how well do we continue to develop instructors after their initial training? In many cases, a licensed pilot completes the instructor rating with one or two Class 1 instructors and often works at the same location once rated. This means limited exposure for many flight instructors. In other words, after a year or two of teaching, the rate of acquiring new knowledge and improving instructional skill plateaus; any gaps in knowledge or bad habits that have developed may remain uncorrected for years.

In addition to renewing an instructor rating, the FIRC is an outstanding avenue for professional development, which addresses the above issues. FIRCs bring together instructors from all over the country, with course sizes ranging from six to thirty participants. Throughout the course, every instructor benefits from learning the techniques, ideas, safety systems and operational considerations that are brought by others. The varied backgrounds and experience levels of those in attendance contribute to a sharing of knowledge, and the development of a support network amongst instructors. Instructors can then take what they’ve learned back to their own Flight Training Units (FTU) to share with colleagues and improve operations.

The theme of best practices is central to the content that is prepared for the refresher courses. Attendees have a chance to participate in lectures, small and large group discussions and exercises, role-playing, scenario analysis, and preparing their own presentations. The courses are quite interactive and not designed to be a one-way flow of information.

Course material focuses on new skills and knowledge. For instance, many instructors have been asked by an aircraft owner to teach them IFR on their private aircraft, only to find out that the aircraft is equipped with an integrated flight deck or “glass cockpit”. The instructor may have never been given any guidance during initial training on how to “teach glass”. As the National Transportation Safety Board has stated, “single engine aircraft with glass have no better overall safety record than traditional aircraft, but do have a higher fatal accident rate”3. The goal of the refresher course is to review to a certain extent, but more so to give instructors new knowledge and skills.

The FIRC modules are led by experienced flight instructors, pilot examiners and industry experts. For instance, during presentations on airspace/ADS-B/RNAV, NAV CANADA may send a controller to participate, TC may provide a presenter to discuss the implementation of SMS at FTUs, and so on.

Every course has its own unique set of topics and more information is available from the course providers’ websites. Some common topics include: instructor supervision, operational control, flight-testing weak areas, and scenario-based training. The theme through all of the modules is how instructors can not only improve the quality of their work, but also the level of safety—for their students, themselves, and for the aviation industry as a whole. Applicable real-world content is integrated throughout, to keep the lessons both relevant and current.

The topic of Human Factors, for example, may look at the training of English as a Second Language students. What are the statistics surrounding their safety record? What practices have been shown to improve safety in this environment? What instructional techniques are most effective? Though these topics may sound daunting at first, the courses are designed for all levels of instructors, including Class 4. The courses are also ideal for instructors not actively working in the field who wish to retain their ratings, by keeping up-to-date on the latest changes, trends and innovations in flight training.

Instructors practicing good pre-flight briefing techniques
Instructors practicing good pre-flight briefing techniques
during a role-playing exercise.

TC has laid out comprehensive guidelines for becoming an authorized FIRC provider. Like all other operators, their documents and training programs are reviewed and courses are audited. There are presently several approved course providers running courses throughout the country.4

Flight instruction is an important part of the aviation industry and flight instructors are professionals who should be constantly improving their knowledge and skills. The next time you have a renewal coming up, you may want to consider attending one of these professional development courses. They are one of the best ways to advance both the quality and level of safety in Canadian flight training.

Michael Schuster is an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Class 1 Instructor and authorized FIRC course provider. For more information visit or email

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2 General Aviation Advisory Circular 421-001, June 2010
3 Aviation International News, April 2010

If not for ice, watch for mice…

magneto wire with the top chewed in half, and other wires with teeth marks  magneto wire with the top chewed in half, and other wires with teeth marks

Mr. Paul Harrington of Cottam, Ontario, thought this would be of interest to ASL readers. Just after maintenance on a Cessna 172, he pushed the aircraft out to run it up, and he suddenly had a large drop on the right magneto. He decided to check the spark plugs and ignition wires, so he pushed the aircraft back in the hangar, took the cowls off, and found number 5 magneto wire with the top chewed in half, and other wires with teeth marks. In 36 years of working on aircraft, Mr. Harrington said this was the first time he had ever seen this happening. So, he wanted to share this with pilots and, aircraft maintenance engineers (AME): if you get a magneto drop, you may want to double-check the condition of the ignition wires! He replaced the right magneto harness; for some reason, the mice didn’t touch the left one. Be careful out there!

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