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An Assessment on the Cause of Runway IncursionsResearch Paper

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Runway Incursions

According to the FAA, between 2014 and 2015 runway incursions increased. In the past, significant research has been undertaken to identify ways in which the level of incursions may be reduced, with much of the research based on utilisation of technological interventions, rather than looking at human error, which is attributed as the main cause of runway incursions. To assess the potential causes of runway incursions, data from the FAA has been gathered, subject to statistical testing. A chi-squared test demonstrated that pilot deviation was the primary cause of runway incursions, rather than operate incidences, or pedestrian/vehicle deviations. Therefore, it may be asserted that strategies to reduce runway incursion should be focused on reducing pilot deviations. However, despite a potential increase in the number of incidences reported by the FAA, the application of a t-test indicated that this increase was not statistically significant, and therefore the problem may not be escalating as rapidly believed by many commentators.

1. Introduction

A runway incursion occurs when there is an incorrect presence on a runway (FAA, 2015a). The inclusion may be another aircraft, a person, or a vehicle, located on the area of the runway designated as a protected surface (FAA, 2015b). Incursions, which are often the result complex interactions from human actors and systems, present significant safety risks, leading to increased potential for an accident and/or the loss of separation with an aircraft take-off or landing, all of which may also have domino effects (FAA, 2015b; Strove, Blom, & Bakker, 2006). Despite a number of initiative to reduce the occurrence of incursions, they appear to be increasing; in 2014 there were a total of 1,264 incursions, this increased to 1,462 in 2015 (FAA, 2015c). Therefore, it is important to understand the source and type of incursion in order to develop plans that will increase runway safety. This paper will examine the issue, undertaking a litre review ion the causes of incursions, and then assessing the issue with the use of statistical analysis to identify the main trends and causes. This data may then be used to identify the most effective preventive strategies

2. Literature Review

The FAA (2015b) categorise runway incursions with reference to their cause, with three general categories, operational incidences, pilot deviations, and vehicle/pedestrian deviations. Operational incidences where an incursion is the result of an action taken by an air traffic controller resulting in a breach of the minimum required separation between two or more aircraft occurring, or the minimum separation between an aircraft and another obstacle, such as a building or other vehicle (FAA, 2015b). Pilot deviations occur when a pilot violates a federal aviation regulation, for example crossing in front of another aircraft without clearance (FAA, 2015b). A vehicle/pedestrian deviation occurs when a vehicle or pedestrian enters any area where aircraft takes place, including runways, as well as taxiways, without air traffic control granting authorisation (FAA, 2015b). An additional category referred to as "other," is utilised for any event that cannot be categorised in one of these three main classes. In order to seek methods of improving safety, a great deal of literature on runway incursion focuses on identifying causes of incursions, and identification of strategies which may reduce the level of incursions (Chang & Wong, 2012; Torres, Metscher, & Smith, 2011).

Research indicates that in the majority of cases human error is a direct cause of a runway incursion (Satish et al., 2013; Chang & Wahl, 2012; Torres et al., 2011). This has led to a significant amount of research into the development of systems, specifically automated systems, to help identify and reduce potential incursions, compensating for human error. Jones et al., (2001) examined the utilisation of a runway incursion pension system (RIPS) at the Dallas Fort Worth International airport in October 2000. The results indicated there were potential benefits from the implementation of such a system, as it provided integrated components that would alert both pilots and controllers of additional environmental data, and wall of potential runway incursions (Jones, 2001). More recently, Schonefeld & Moller (2012), undertook similar research, specifically looking at potential incursion incidences where to or more vehicles would make use of the same runway, and the potential use of early warning systems. The results were similar to those of earlier research, and while it was found they had some value, the full potential indicated by simulation research was not always realised in real-life applications (Schonefeld & Moller, 2012).

This failure of full potential to be realised, which may also explain why incursion rates have been rising since 2000, may be seen in research that has been performed to examine the causes of the incursions, rather than strategies to mitigate incursions. Cardosi & Yost (2001), examined the causes of runway incursions from the perspective of air-traffic control, finding the four most common was the air-traffic controller forgetting about an aircraft or service vehicle being present, forgetting whether or not clearance had been issued, a communication error, and ineffective communication between the different air-traffic controllers. Subsequent research undertaken by DiFiore & Cardosi (2006), based on a quantitative sample of 231 runway incursions made for recommendations for reducing runway incursion incidences, which clearly demonstrates some of the causes. Firstly, they recommended that pilots should reduce the time spent inside the cockpit, secondly they recommended that air-traffic controllers needed to make sure that any instructions issued were more clear and concise (DiFiore & Cardosi, 2006). Thirdly, they recommended strategies to reduce the amount of radio congestion, and lastly, improved signage for aircraft taxi routes to increase their visibility, and the reduction of holding lines (DiFiore & Cardosi, 2006).

The results of these early studies were also supported by Torres et al., (2011), in another quantitative survey of almost 300 runway incursions, finding that in the majority of cases the subsequent incursion was preceded by a loss of situational awareness by pilots and/or air-traffic controllers. This research was particularly interesting, as it argued that despite the past focus of the FAA on technological solutions to reduce runway incursions, the authors argued that a more effective strategy would be to focus on the humans themselves who are making the errors, and improving their situational awareness as a method of reducing runway incursions (Torres et al., 2011). A finding that is also supported by Chang & Wong (2012), who undertook research by gathering opinions of 112 airline pilots, and supported many of the findings, especially those of DiFiore & Cardosi, (2006), discussed above on the way measures may be introduced focusing on human elements, rather than relying on technology.

3. Methodology

The research undertaken in this paper has the aim of identifying the main causes of runway incursions. The research will be based on a positivist paradigms, associated with a deductive epistemology, utilising a quantitative approach, accessing data on runway incursions provided by the FAA. This approach has been chosen, as there is a desire to create generalisable information, which can be applied to the industry as a whole. The utilisation of statistical analysis, with the ability to undertake hypothesis testing, providing results with a 95% level of certainty, creates a robust and credible methodology, that is easily defensible (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2012).

Data will be obtained from a reliable source; the FAA, as this will provide the highest level of credibility possible for the research. The data will then be analysed utilising three hypotheses, one each for the various sources of runway incursions being the main source. The data will initially be assessed through a chi-squared test, suitable for the utilisation of numerical data separated by categorical classifications. The statistical test will be undertaken based on a 95% level of certainty, and will be performed separately on the data for 2015-2014 to determine whether or not there is a consistent result.

Once the main cause of runway closure is identified, assuming there is a singular cause, the patterns between 2014 and 2015 will be examined utilising a t-test, with a 95% level of certainty, in order to determine whether or not there has been a statistically significant increase.

4. Results

The first chi-squared test, examined the incidence rate of different types of runway incursion. It is assumed that if all incidences were equally likely, there would be an even distribution. Applying this chi-squared test to the data for 2015 gives a chi statistic of 1.6667E-246, and the chi-squared statistic for 2014 is 8.4697E-205. The cut-off statistic for the result is 0.352, this is not reached, so therefore there is a statistically significant difference between the data, and the conclusion is that pilot deviations are significantly greater than other sources of runway incursion.

The second test was a t-test for paired samples, comparing the level of runway in occurrences in 2014-2015 to determine whether or not there is a statistically significant difference. The result was a t-test is shown below in table 1. Here the null hypothesis is being assessed, where it is hypothesised there is no statistically significant difference between the accident rates in 2014 and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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