10 Facts about Runway Safety for Pilots You Need to Know before You Fly Again

Commercial airplane on runway
October 12, 2021
10 Facts about Runway Safety for Pilots You Need to Know before You Fly Again

Traveling on a commercial airplane is one of the safest means of transportation. It's much safer than traveling on the highway, in a car or bus, or traveling by train or boat. One of the reasons air travel is so safe are the procedures put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the training that pilots receive. If you're considering a career as a pilot, it may interest you to know these facts about runway safety for pilots. 

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Facts About Runway Safety 

There are many things that the FAA takes into account when it comes to runway safety. Runways aren't just used by commercial and private aircraft; there are luggage vehicles, fueling tanks and maintenance vehicles that can be located on or near the runway. The FAA looks at "runway collision accidents, runway excursion accidents, taxiway collision accidents, runway incursion incidents, and taxiway surface incidents'' when accessing runway safety. 

  • Runway collision accidents, as the name implies, occur when two aircraft occupy the same space at the same time. 
  • Runway excursion accidents occur when a single aircraft has an incident when exiting the runway. This includes when an aircraft overruns or is unable to stop before the end of the runway. 
  • Taxiway collision accidents are accidents that occur when the aircraft is on the ground and is taxiing to or from the runway. 
  • Runway incursion incidents are defined by the FAA 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". 
  • Taxiway surface incident is a broad term that applies to incidents involving taxiing. This might be an aircraft taxiing on the wrong runway or taxiway. 


  1. A host of technology is used to keep runways safe. 
    This includes: 
    • Runway safety lights (RWSL) that switch to red when there is a potentially unsafe situation. 
    • Airport surface detection equipment (ASDE-X) which use a variety of sources including radar to accurately map surface traffic for air traffic controllers 
    • Airport Surface Surveillance Capability (ASSC) which improves surface surveillance and situational awareness in all kinds of weather by allowing air traffic controllers to see aircraft and ground vehicles on the airport runways and taxiways as well as those on aircraft on approach to the airport. 
    • ASDE-X and ASSC Taxiway Arrival Prediction (ATAP) warns air traffic controllers when an aircraft is aligned with a taxiway rather than the assigned runway. 
  1. The Runway Safety Implementation Kit has been adopted by all the major global aviation organizations, including the FAA. This kit standardizes the runway safety procedures, training and signage for airports and pilots all over the world. It provides links to relevant safety publications and makes it easy for pilots to find the safety information they need quickly. 
  2. Runway incidents in the United States decreased 1.5 percent in 2021compared to 2020. This is despite an increase in flight volume in 2021 compared to 2020. 
  3. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) holds a symposium every year with the goal of improving runway safety outcomes worldwide.The symposium brings together members with a variety of aviation backgrounds from countries that include the United States, Australia, Egypt, the UK, Portugal, Hong Kong, Singapore, Columbia, Canada, Jamaica, France and South Africa. 
  4. The worldwide pandemic had a major impact on the number of flights flown in 2020.The volume of flights was about half of that of 2019. This therefore had an impact on runway safety and resulted in the safest year on record for airport runways, according to the Aviation Safety Network. 
  5. Runway excursion accidents are the most common type of aviation accidents worldwide, representing 22 percent of all accidents. The most common runway excursion accident is when an aircraft fails to stop at the end of the runway. This can be due to weather, pilot error, or a fault with the aircraft. 
  6. The FAA publishes a list of 17 best practices for pilots regarding runway safety. These guidelines, available online, include "encouraging the use of correct terminology and proper voice cadence, eliminating distractions in the operational area, obtaining and using airport diagrams found on the FAA runway safety website, conducting "clearing turns" prior to entering ANY runway, maintaining a sterile cockpit when taxiing and maintaining an appropriate taxi speed. The document is updated annually. 
  7. New technology, such as Honeywell's SmartRunway system, helps to prevent runway accidents. It does this by using ground navigation GPS data to issue advisories to the flight crew based on aircraft position compared against airport locations stored in the ground proximity warning database. 
  8. General aviation pilots, of all certifications and skill levels, account fora majority of runway incursions each year. These incidents are the result of miscommunication, failure to comply with signs and markings or simply getting lost — or a combination of these factors. 
  9. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) offers a variety of training and continuing education materials to help keep general aviation pilots up to date on current technology and signs and markings. 
runway vertical

The Aviation Flight program at Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology 

The Aviation Flight program at Spartan College trains students for 6 FAA certifications and ratings*. This program, which lasts as few as 17 months, features a combination of in-plane and classroom training. The program teaches students to safely and efficiently perform flight duties as well as gives them the information they need to successfully complete their required FAA written examinations. The program, which is taught at the College's Tulsa location, includes modules on Private Pilot CertificationInstrumentation Rating, Commercial, and Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). 


The Aviation Flight program at Spartan College is designed to equip students with the skills and experience they need to earn multiple Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 141 pilot certifications and ratings*. Graduates of the program may also apply to continue their education with Spartan College's Bachelor of Science in Technology Management program, as well as apply to work as a Certified Flight Instructor. 

Spartan College uses instructors from various backgrounds in its Aviation Flight program. Some have worked for major airlines and/or flown military aircraft. 

Students in the program train three to four times a week with flight simulators, Piper Archer TX, and Piper Seminole. Spartan College maintains a fleet of more than 35 aircraft. 

New classes in the Spartan College Aviation Flight program start regularly. Spartan offers, to those who qualify, academic scholarships, housing scholarships, and other forms of financial aid. Students must be at least 16 years of age and must be at least 18 years old to qualify for a commercial pilot certificate (license). Students under 18 years require parental approval to enroll in the program. 

Learning Runway Safety at Spartan College 

Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma adjacent to Tulsa International Airport, Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology is a private aviation training institution founded nearly 100 years ago. The flight training facility is located at Richard Lloyd Jones Jr. Airport on the west side of Tulsa.  

In addition to the Aviation Flight program, Spartan College offers Aviation Electronics Technology, Nondestructive Testing Technology, and Aviation Maintenance Technology programs. 

To learn more about the Aviation Flight program and other aviation programs at Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology or to enroll, contact the admissions department by Requesting Information or visit spartan.edu. 

*Aviation Flight (Commercial Pilot) Certification Disclosure 

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