The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday issued specific measures for aviation sector players to mitigate the risk of runway incursions at Indian airports.
The measures include activating stop bars by Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) to inform aircraft when not to proceed, establishing contingency plans in case stop bars malfunction, establishing runway safety teams at airports, and conducting comprehensive training programs for pilots, ATC personnel, aircraft maintenance engineers, and airport drivers.
The DGCA issued a circular in view of the January 2 accident at Haneda Airport in Tokyo when a Japan Coast Guard's DHC-8 aircraft intruded onto the runway, resulting in a collision with a Japan Airlines A350 aircraft. Five out of the six crew members aboard the DHC-8 lost their lives in the collision, with only the captain surviving. All occupants aboard the A350 survived the collision.
When an aircraft, person, or vehicle is in the wrong area of the runway, it can lead to an accident with another aircraft that is either taking off or landing. Such incidents are called “runway incursions”. According to DGCA data, the number of runway incursions in India in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 were 40, 25, 15, 35, and 45, respectively.
In a statement, the regulator said that the aviation sector players – airports, airlines, and others -- must adopt technological interventions to improve situational awareness, thereby assisting ATC and other stakeholders to identify traffic in the area where the aircraft is maneuvering.
The stakeholders have also been asked to "recognise the influence of human factors on performance", which may lead to runway incursions. The DGCA has also asked each airport to establish a runway safety team and ensure that it is functioning effectively.
"ATC should ensure that stop bars are switched on to signal a stop and switched off to indicate traffic may proceed. In no case, aircraft or vehicles be instructed to cross illuminated red stop bars. Aerodrome, ATC and airlines should implement contingency measures to cater to unserviceable stop bars," said the DGCA.
Drivers of vehicles using the tarmac, aircraft maintenance engineers, ATC and pilots should have "comprehensive" training to avoid runway incursions.
"By adhering to the actions specified in this circular and maintaining a proactive approach among all stakeholders, the risk of runway incursions may be reduced further," it said.