Allied Pilots Association Applauds FAA's Runway Safety Move
Although APA supports the move to tighten rules for using TIPH, the union urges FAA Administrator Marion Blakey to:
“The risk factors the FAA found in its review are real, and the changes mandated in this notice will significantly mitigate those risks.”
1. Implement the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS).
2. Install Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X ground radar system.
3. Adequately staff control towers.
These actions would ensure safer implementation of the new procedure and increase the number of airports that would qualify to use it.
TIPH allows an aircraft to taxi onto the runway and stop -- while awaiting clearance to actually begin its takeoff roll when a safe interval behind the departing aircraft is achieved. Controllers use TIPH to expedite departures by lining up airplanes on the runway while aircraft that have already landed clear the runway, or while traffic crosses the runway downfield. TIPH procedures can save considerable time when successive takeoffs or landings are in progress from the same runway.
The FAA has issued a general notice to all traffic control towers revising the procedure, effective today. The notice places significant restrictions on when the procedure can be used, and requires the facility's manager to justify its use in writing. The manager must also specify how the facility will meet the new restrictions.
There have been several high-profile incidents involving this procedure recently, culminating in the three-way operational error at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 17 involving a SkyWest commuter aircraft, an Air Canada jet and a Southwest Airlines jet. The FAA complied with recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board -- which has criticized the procedure for several years -- and mounted an internal review and risk analysis, which resulted in the general notice.
"We applaud the FAA's action to improve safety on our runways," said Captain Mike Leone, APA Safety Committee chairman. "The risk factors the FAA found in its review are real, and the changes mandated in this notice will significantly mitigate those risks."
The new requirements to use the procedure prohibit the tower controller from working other positions combined with their primary runway responsibility. The prohibited combinations include controllers who would be responsible for more than one runway, or for runways on other parts of the airport. Also, any existing runway safety scanning equipment must be operational at an airport in order for the procedure to be used there. The objective of these restrictions is to reduce distractions and ensure that the controller has the maximum amount of support available.
Facility managers at the nation's busiest airports have been encouraged to accomplish the required internal reviews and paperwork as quickly as possible in order to ensure that they can continue to use the procedure after March 20.
Controllers have indicated concern that FAA's tower facilities are not staffed sufficiently for compliance with these new requirements. APA believes that decisions on whether to address known safety risks cannot be based on administrative issues. Travelers depend on us to keep the safety of our air traffic system our overriding value and concern. APA supports the FAA's efforts to improve that safety. We have urged the leaders of the FAA to not be deterred from implementing these new requirements.
Founded in 1963, APA is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. There are currently 2,852 American Airlines pilots on furlough. The furloughs began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Also, several hundred American Airlines pilots are on full-time military leave of absence serving in the armed forces. The union's Web site address is www.alliedpilots.org. American Airlines is the nation's largest passenger carrier.