A runway incursion is an incident where an unauthorized aircraft, vehicle, or person is on a runway or runway protected area. Under some interpretations, a runway incursion also exists when an aircraft crosses into an ILS protected area or approach protected area when active. Any such incursion adversely affects runway safety, as it creates the risk that an airplane taking off or landing will collide with the object, distract the non-infringing flight crew, or interfere with navigational signals such as the glideslope or localizer. "Runway Incursion" is defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on April 27, 2006, as:
Any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and takeoff of aircraft.
In October 2007, the Federal Aviation Administration dropped its own definition of "runway incursion" and adopted the above. The difference between the two was "that ICAO defines a runway incursion as any unauthorized intrusion onto a runway, regardless of whether or not an aircraft presents a potential conflict. For the FAA, an incident without an aircraft in potential conflict– such as an unauthorized aircraft crossing an empty runway– was defined as a 'surface incident' and not a runway incursion."
There are 3 types of runway incursions with 4 levels of severity that the FAA uses to classify incidents.
Operational Incidents - Action of an air traffic controller that results in less than required minimum separation between two or more aircraft, or between an aircraft and obstacles (vehicles, equipment, personnel) on runways or clearing an aircraft to takeoff or land on a closed runway.
Pilot Deviations - Action of a pilot that violates any Federal Aviation Regulation, example: a pilot crosses a runway without a clearance while en route to an airport gate.
Vehicle/Pedestrian Deviations - Pedestrians or vehicles entering any portion of the airport movement areas (runways/taxiways) without authorization from air traffic control.
The 4 levels of severity are as follows:
Category D - Incident that meets the definition of runway incursion such as incorrect presence of a single vehicle/person/aircraft on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and takeoff of aircraft but with no immediate safety consequences.
Category C - An incident characterized by ample time and/or distance to avoid a collision.
Category B - An incident in which separation decreases and there is a significant potential for collision, which may result in a time critical corrective/evasive response to avoid a collision.
Category A - A serious incident in which a collision was narrowly avoided.
Accident - An incursion that resulted in a collision.
The Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X) and the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) are computerized systems that are intended to alert air traffic controllers to the potential for a runway incursion.
Serious and fatal runway incursions
- Tenerife airport disaster – On March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 passenger jets, KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736, collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport), on the Spanish island of Tenerife, Canary Islands, killing 583 people, making it the deadliest accident in aviation history.
- Aeroflot Flight 3352 – On October 11, 1984, a Tupolev Tu-154B-1 hit maintenance vehicles on the runway while attempting to land in Omsk, Russia. The ground controller allowed maintenance workers to dry the runway during heavy rain and fell asleep on the job. 174 people aboard the aircraft were killed, along with 4 workers on the ground. This incursion is the deadliest aviation accident in Russian territory.
- In the 1972 Chicago–O'Hare runway collision, North Central Airlines Flight 575 (a McDonnell Douglas DC-9) collided during its takeoff roll with Delta Air Lines Flight 954 (a Convair CV-880) while the CV-880 was taxiing across a fog-shrouded runway at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, killing 10 people and injuring 17.
- In New Zealand, during the 1981 Springbok Tour, a number of protesters blocked the runway at Wellington Airport, forcing an Air New Zealand Fokker Friendship to abort its landing, another F27 to circle the airport for several minutes and delaying two departures.
- USAir Flight 1493 was a scheduled passenger flight from Syracuse Hancock International Airport, New York, to San Francisco International Airport, via Washington, D.C.; Columbus, Ohio; and Los Angeles. On the evening of February 1, 1991, the Boeing 737-300 serving the flight accidentally collided with SkyWest Flight 5569, a Metroliner turboprop aircraft, upon landing at Los Angeles.
- 1994 TWA Flight 427/Superior Aviation Cessna 441 Conquest II, 22 November 1994: Cessna pilot error at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Pilot taxied to incorrect runway and was struck by departing TWA MD-80, 2 fatalities on the Cessna.
- On 16 November 1996, United Express Flight 5925 was landing at Quincy Regional Airport when the pilot of a Beechcraft King Air started to takeoff on an intersecting runway. As the field was uncontrolled, the United Express pilots inquired whether the King Air was clear of the runways. They received no response except for a call from a Piper Cherokee saying they were holding short. The King Air and United Express collided at the intersection of the two runways killing all 12 on board Flight 5925 and the pilot and passenger of the Beechcraft King Air.
- On 1 April 1999, an Air China Boeing 747, Flight 9018, taxied onto an active runway at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport during the takeoff of Korean Air Flight 36, another 747. Flight 36 averted a collision by taking off early, missing the Air China aircraft by 75 feet (23 m). There were 8 people on the Air China jet, and 379 on the South Korean flight.
- 1999 T. F. Green Airport runway incursion, 6 December 1999: In low visibility at night, a United Airlines 757 turned down the wrong taxiway and taxied onto the active runway just as a FedEx Express 727 took off. No collision occurred.
- On 25 May 2000, at Charles de Gaulle Airport, France, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 operating as Air Liberte Flight 8807 collided with a Shorts 330-200 with its left wing while taking off. One of the pilots in the Shorts 330-200 was killed; the other pilot was seriously injured. The MD-83 aborted takeoff at a speed of 155 knots. There were no injuries to the 151 passengers and 6 crew members on the MD-83. The MD-83 sustained substantial damage to its left wing but was later repaired. An investigation concluded that the runway incursion was caused by ATC error.
- Linate Airport disaster, 8 October 2001: Scandinavian flight 686 collided on takeoff with a Cessna Citation registered D-IEVX that had turned onto the wrong taxiway, causing it to enter the runway.
- 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami aftermath, Banda Aceh 4 January 2005: water buffalo on runway caused ground collision which seriously delayed relief flights.
- On 9 June 2005, US Airways Flight 1170, a Boeing 737-300, nearly collided with Aer Lingus Flight 132, an Airbus A330 at Logan International Airport in Boston after both flights were given nearly simultaneous clearances for takeoff on intersecting runways. The US Airways flight kept its nose down on the runway for an extended amount of time to go underneath the Aer Lingus flight and avoided a collision.
- On 20 October 2014, a Dassault Falcon 50 collided on takeoff with a snow plow that had strayed onto the runway at Moscow Vnukovo Airport, killing Total oil company Chairman and CEO Christophe de Margerie.
- On 11 October 2016, China Eastern Airlines Flight MU5643, an Airbus A320 (Registration B-2337), nearly collided with Flight MU5106 of the same airline, an Airbus A330 at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai, China, when the former was taking off on runway 36L while the latter was crossing the same runway under wrong instruction. The former performed a TOGA takeoff, managed to climb over the latter and avoided a collision.
- On 13 February 2017, an Aviat Husky piloted by actor Harrison Ford, landed on Taxiway C at John Wayne Airport instead of Runway 20L barely missing an American 737 waiting to takeoff. No one was hurt in the incident.
- On 7 May 2020, an adult male intruder entered the grounds of Austin–Bergstrom International Airport, being struck and killed by a Boeing 737-7H4 operating Southwest Airlines Flight 1392 as it landed at the airport. There were no injuries or fatalities to the 58 people on board the aircraft, although substantial damage was sustained to the 737's left engine nacelle.
- Takemoto, Paul (October 1, 2007). "Fact Sheet – FAA Adopts ICAO Definition for Runway Incursions". Federal Aviation Administration. Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- "Runway Safety – Runway Incursions". www.faa.gov. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
- "Airport Runway Accidents, Serious Incidents, Recommendations, and Statistics – Deadliest Runway Accidents" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. December 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- Лебедев, Михаил (May 31, 2007). "Tu-154B Omsk 11.10.84". Последний полет (last Flight) (in Russian). Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- "Final report of the 2000 Charles de Gaulle Airport runway incursion in English" (PDF). Retrieved June 11, 2020.
- "Two China Eastern Jets in Runway Incursion at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport". China Aviation Daily. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
- Thurber, Matt. "FAA Opts Out of Punishment for Harrison Ford Taxiway Landing". Aviation International News. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
- "Jetliner Hits, Kills Man on Austin Airport Runway". NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. Retrieved May 8, 2020.