Runway Incursion: The Human Factors


The following report was presented by Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) with the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) during the 14th European Aviation Safety Seminar (EASS) on March 11-13, 2002 in Budapest, Hungary. It was based on the Honeywell study - "An Analysis of Runway Incursion Occurrences Worldwide, 1990-2002". Data sources included official reports from accident investigation bodies in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, UK, US, UK CAA and Airclaims.[1]

Study Findings

Analysis of data from 71 runway-incursion occurrences (aircraft- aircraft) worldwide shows the following findings:

  • 70% involved crew deviations from standard operating procedures (SOP) and 46% involved failure by an air traffic controller to provide separation.
  • 34% occurred in darkness or twilight, implying a risk two times higher than conditions of daylight (25% of occurrences)
  • 23% of occurrences were in visibility less than reported runway visual range of 1,200 feet
  • Extremely high correlation between types of risk factors involved in the 71 runway-incursion occurrences to the types of risk factors identified in studies of controlled flight into terrain and approach-and-landing accidents.
(Image embedded from Clubcontroltower on 12 Sep 2009)


Runway-incursion occurrences happened most frequently in the following scenarios
Aircraft surface movement where taxiway crosses a runway 33%
Simultaneous takeoff and landing operations on the same runway 11%
Taking off or landing on the wrong parallel runway or lining up for takeoff on the wrong parallel runway 13%
Take off and landing occurring simultaneously on intersecting runways 13%
(Image embedded from Flightglobal on 12 Sep 2009)

Flight Crew Related Factors

Analysis of flight crew related factors Occurrences
Failure to maintain adequate look-out 41%
Poor position awareness 40%
Poor traffic awareness 45%
Communication – such as improper readback, mishearing and/or improper phraseology 31%
Inadequate crew resource management 31%
Inadequate crew monitoring / challenging 31%
Tactical decision-making in the cockpit 39%
“Press-on-it” – taxiing the aircraft despite crew uncertainty about position or ATC clearance 20%
(Image embedded from Clubcontroltower on 12 Sep 2009)

Air Traffic Controllers Related Factors

Analysis of ATC-related factors Occurrences
Inadequate visual monitoring 32%
Inadequate awareness of conflicting traffic 38%
Incorrect service / instructions 41%
Failure to provide separation 46%
Inadequate ATC procedures provided to controllers 17%
Controller deviations from ATC procedures 29%
Poor controller decision making 32%
Poor ATC communications 32%
(Image embedded from Fear of Flying on 12 Sep 2009)


The US Federal Aviation Authority compiled the following recommendations into a report on Runway Safety to address ten areas of concern: Policy, Procedures, Training, Awareness, Communication & Co-ordination, Monitoring, Database, Equipment, Diagrams and Other: [2]


  • Taxi to position procedures
  • Intersection departures
  • Cross-runway authorizations
  • Blanket clearances
  • Readback of “Hold Short”
  • No ATC clearance in position


  • Annual recurrent training
  • Professional Communications
  • Position hand-over procedures
  • Runway scanning techniques
  • Conduct Crew Resource Management (CRM) training


  • Professional communications part of annual recurrent training for controllers and specialists
  • Training on Hearback/Readback errors
  • Eliminate ambiguous pilot-controller communication


  • Development and application of an Incursion monitoring program
  • Ensure that aviation authorities conduct a more vigorous monitoring of ATS communications
  • Install inductive loop systems at high-risk sites
  • National standard for incursion warning system RIMCAS software


  • Diagrams of controlled airports to be made available at low or no cost
  • Improved airport lay-out to remove confusing runway and taxiway patterns
  • Upgrade airport signage and markings
  • Airport Infrastructure and Information


  • Develop standard taxi routes
  • Runway surveillance technology
  • Incident reporting
  • Runway safety reviews
1. Flightsafety "Study of 71 Runway-incursion Occurrences Worldwide" Retrieved on 12 Sep 2009
2. FAA Runway Safety Report Retrieved on 12 Sep 2009

Want to know more?

This page shows recommendations of Transport Canada's Sub-Committee on Runway Incursions.
Runway Incursions and Prevention Initiatives in Canada
An overview of Transport Canada's initiatives on preventions of runway incursion.

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