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Why do runway incursions occur?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Accidents & Incidents

Runway incursions are incidents where unauthorized aircraft, vehicles or people are on an active runway. These incidents are an undeniably hazardous reality. Understanding the common reasons why incursions occur is important for preventing them, better ensuring the safety of airport operations and educating victims of incursion-related harm about their legal rights and options.

Some challenges, in and of themselves, don’t give rise to liability concerns in the event of a runway incursion. Weather conditions, for example, can significantly reduce visibility, and poor visibility makes it harder for pilots and ground operators to see and identify runway markings, signs and other aircraft. With that said, failure to account for these kinds of hazards – and to mitigate them – may give rise to liability, just as any of the following concerns might in the event that an incursion leads to physical harm.

Human error

Human error is a leading cause of runway incursions. Miscommunications between pilots and air traffic controllers, misunderstanding instructions or failing to follow proper procedures are all examples of human error. Fatigue, stress and inadequate training also contribute to mistakes that can lead to incursions.

Similarly, as effective communication is consequential when it comes to preventing runway incursions, miscommunication can lead to tragic outcomes. Miscommunications often occur due to unclear or ambiguous instructions, language barriers or poor radio transmission quality.

Procedural and technological failures

Non-compliance with established procedures is another significant concern. This can include failing to adhere to taxi routes, not holding short of a runway when instructed or bypassing mandatory stop points.

Failures or malfunctions in technology, such as ground radar systems, navigation aids or radio equipment, can also lead to runway incursions. These technologies are crucial for maintaining situational awareness and communication between pilots and air traffic controllers.

Ultimately, runway incursions result from a combination of human factors, communication breakdowns, procedural non-compliance, environmental conditions and technological failures. Regardless of why they occur, however, those who have been injured as a result of such failures generally have legal options at their disposal.