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James T. Crouse
James T. Crouse
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Runway Incursion At JFK – Will The FAA’s Waiver For Super Sized Jets Increase Incursion Incidents?

2 comments

Today, the world’s largest commercial passenger jet, an Airbus A380, was involved in a runway incursion when it clipped the tail of a much smaller regional jet at John F. Kennedy’s International Airport. Fortunately, there were no injuries to the unknown number of passengers on Air France Flight 7 or to the 62 passengers and four crew members on the Comair CRJ701 Regional Jet.

Comair Flight 6293 had just landed from Boston and was taxiing to its gate when it was struck and spun around 90 degrees by the A380 taxiing on a runway preparing to take off for Paris. Both planes were towed to a ramp area for inspection of their damage. The FAA is investigating how this incident could have happened.

Runway incursions are not new to the world of aviation. According to the FAA’s report on runway safety statistics from October, 2010 through March, 2011 showed a total of 462 incursions compared to 412 during the same period a year earlier. That’s an increase of 50 incidents or 11%. Now here comes jumbo sized planes to airports not necessarily designed or reconstructed to handle the excess size.

How much runway incursions will increase with the introduction of the new jumbo jets such as the A380 and the new Boeing 747-8 freighter is to be seen. Are our airports capable of handling jets the size of a football field with a wing span that stretches wider than the width of that same field? As a comparison, the Comair CRJ 700 is only a little over 76 feet wide and 106 long – certainly no match for the jumbos.

Soon the massive Boeing 747 will be flying into our existing airports. Medium-size airports in Ohio, Illinois, and Alabama are asking the FAA for approval to receive these huge freighters in order to profit from the growing air cargo market which is growing faster than the passenger market. Air freight rose 10 percent last year while passenger service rose only 2 percent. Has profit seeking won out over seeking safety at our airports?

Falling into the largest class of airplane, Airplane Design Group VI, most U.S. airports legally can not accommodate these planes due to FAA space requirements which seek to keep planes from hitting each other or airport structures while taxing. HOWEVER, the FAA can issue a waiver if an airport agrees to some new procedures – such as promising to inspect a taxiway for any broken pavement or other debris every time a 747-8 taxiies past. Say what??? If damage is expected if a 747-8 simply taxiies on a runway what on earth do they expect will happen when the aircraft takes off or lands? What are the dangers to the other traffic and passengers at that airport?

Unbelievably, the FAA has already approved waivers for 14 airports – including JFK – compared to only 3 waivers for the A380 – you know the airport that was just involved in the very incident the FAA space requirements sought to prevent.

Why would the FAA deem a situation possibly dangerous then approve waivers which would open the way to the very incidents they once sought to avoid?

2 Comments

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  1. Brian says:
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    The Airbus was not involved in a runway incursion. The Air France Jet was taxiing down taxiway Alpha which runs parallel to Runway 13R/31L and the Comair CRJ was taxiing into the ramp.

  2. Wilbur says:
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    Brian,

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story!

    ;-)