Watchlist 2016 –
Runway overruns 

Runway overruns continue to occur at Canadian airports.

 Update – What has been done

  • Shortly after the release of the Watchlist, the TSB Chair presented on two occasions during the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) Annual Conference in Vancouver. The presentations highlighted the air and multi-modal Watchlist issues.
  • Following the Watchlist release, the TSB Chair met with senior officials at the Vancouver International Airport authority and with Toronto Pearson International Airport authority to discuss air Watchlist issues. The TSB is hoping to meet with other airport authorities in the near future to broaden the conversation.

Why this matters

Every year, there are millions of successful landings on Canadian runways. However, accidents do occur during the landing phase of flight, or if a takeoff is rejected. These accidents can result in aircraft damage, injuries, and even loss of life—and the consequences can be particularly serious when there is no adequate safety area at the end of the runway.

Since this issue was first put on the Watchlist in 2010, the TSB has investigated 16 accidents involving runway overruns, Footnote 1 and has issued four recommendationsFootnote 2 and four safety communications related to this type of accident.

Snow, rain, and ice affect runway surface conditions. Pilots need timely and accurate information about runway surface conditions in all seasons to calculate the distance their aircraft needs to land safely.

When a runway overrun occurs during landing or a rejected take-off, it is important that an aircraft have an adequate safety area beyond the runway’s end to reduce adverse consequences. There is currently no requirement in Canada for runways to meet international standards and recommended practices for runway-end safety areas (RESAs).

Many Canadian airports do not yet meet the Transport Canada guideline of 150 m, and most large airports do not meet the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommended practice of 300 m RESAs. As a result, the terrain beyond the end of many runways in Canada could, in the event of an accident, contribute to aircraft damage and injuries to passengers and crew.

There has been some progress since this issue was first included on the Watchlist in 2010. To maximize the chances of a safe landing, some airports have improved runway surfaces. NAV CANADA has also taken measures to improve runway surface condition reporting for pilots during winter.

Some airports have enlarged their RESAs or taken other measures to address safety risks within their operation. The TSB is highly supportive of these individual initiatives, but overall progress to address RESA requirements at most airports continues to be slow.

Transport Canada has completed a study that will guide development of regulation, and has consulted with stakeholders. However, the TSB remains concerned that the Transport Canada study methodology and proposed criteria may not adequately address the underlying safety deficiency which gave rise to its recommendation on runway-end safety areas.Footnote 3

Consequently, despite these efforts, accidents involving runway overruns continue to occur. The TSB remains concerned that without further action, risks to the public remain.

 Action required

This issue will remain on the Watchlist until

  • pilots receive timely information about runway surface conditions to calculate the landing distance required, no matter the season;
  • Transport Canada requires appropriate RESAs at Canadian airports to reduce risks when a runway overrun occurs; and
  • major airports provide adequate RESAs or other engineered systems and structures to safely stop aircraft that overrun.
Date modified: