DIA asks feds to help evaluate safety after two runway incursions in past month

DIA asks feds to help evaluate safety after two runway incursions in past month
By Jeffrey Leib
The Denver Post
Posted: 02/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST
Updated: 02/16/2011 03:01:17 AM MST

The FAA is investigating two recent runway incursions at Denver International Airport, and airport manager Kim Day has asked the agency to help conduct “a candid, systemic evaluation of all our airfield safety and training programs.”

On Feb. 9, a small Key Lime Air cargo plane missed a turn onto a taxiway and instead ended up on an active runway as a Frontier Airlines jet was taking off from the other end.

The Frontier plane had been cleared for takeoff when air traffic controllers noticed the Key Lime plane apparently ignoring runway warning lights and pavement markings and crossing onto the other end of the runway, according to officials.

A radar-based ground surveillance system gave controllers warning of a possible looming conflict and the Frontier pilots were advised to abort the takeoff, according to officials. Another controller was trying to warn the Key Lime pilot.

The Frontier plane was too far into its takeoff roll to stop, and it lifted off the runway at about its midpoint, just as the Key Lime plane was taxiing off the runway to safety near where it had entered.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said he could not comment on details of the incident beyond acknowledging the agency was investigating it.

Todd Schleibaum, Key Lime’s operations director, said the carrier was conducting its own internal investigation of the event, which he said included the report that the plane “crossed the active holdbar line” for the runway.

“I need to know more of what happened before we can figure out what went wrong and where,” Schleibaum said.

Vehicle on runway

In a letter to the FAA on Monday, Day referred to two other recent airfield incidents that preceded the Key Lime incursion.

On Jan. 31, “an airport vehicle crossed onto an active runway with an airplane poised for takeoff,” the FAA’s Fergus confirmed Tuesday.

An Air Canada plane cleared for takeoff had not yet started its takeoff roll, and the pilots informed air traffic control that there was a vehicle on the runway.

“An air traffic controller immediately canceled takeoff clearance for the aircraft,” Fergus said, adding that this incident also is being investigated by the agency.

On Feb. 4, a contractor working for DIA inadvertently drove onto an active taxiway. Officials called it a “surface deviation” because it did not qualify as a runway incursion.

An airport employee noticed the infraction and immediately notified airport security and airport operations personnel, said DIA spokesman Jeff Green.

“In any instance such as this or the incursion of Jan. 31, the individual is immediately stripped of airport driving privileges and escorted from the airfield, per the airport’s policies and procedures,” Green said.

In her letter to the FAA, Day wrote: “While they are unrelated and very different, these incidents occurring literally days apart have me concerned that we must consider all approaches to improving safety at our airport.”

Similar to 2007 incidents

The recent incursions mirror similar incidents four years ago.

In January 2007, another Key Lime plane also entered an active runway just as a Frontier jet was about to land.

One air-traffic controller screamed for another to instruct the Frontier pilots to abort the landing and do a “go around” to avoid hitting the Key Lime plane, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report on the incident.

The Frontier crew successfully performed that maneuver, and the NTSB included the incident in a tutorial on the dangers of runway incursions.

And in February 2007, a DIA snowplow driver inadvertently drove on a runway just as a United Airlines jet was landing. The United pilots used emergency braking to avoid a collision with the ground vehicle, according to the NTSB’s report on that incident.

Those occurrences led DIA to improve pavement markings and signs delineating the entries to runways and taxiways.

Jeffrey Leib: 303-954-1645 or jleib@denverpost.com

Read more: DIA asks feds to help evaluate safety after two runway incursions in past month – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17398476#ixzz1E8PD9D4O
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