Sorry for the bad pun, but at Scaled Analytics, we have been taking a different look at how our customers can reduce the risk of runway overruns through the use of their Flight Data Monitoring programs.
Despite the industry’s best efforts, Runway Overruns, or Runway Excursions, continue to be a safety problem for the industry. They continue to make Transport Canada’s top safety watch list, but this problem is not limited to Canada. In fact, just this month, a US Navy P-8A (a military version of the 737-800) went off the runway on landing in Hawaii.
Even as I get ready to publish this blog, I see that the NBAA just published a document on how to reduce runway overruns in Business Aviation.
This is a serious problem that affects all fixed wing aircraft operators.
Traditionally, we use Flight Data Monitoring Programs to detect and review deviations or “events” during the Approach and Landing phases of flight. We, as an industry, do this quite thoroughly. We monitor for unstable approaches, long landings, high threshold crossings, excessive speed on approach, etc.
And, of course, we should. It is no secret that the approach and landing phases of flight are the phases that are considered highest risk and, in most cases, a runway overrun is born from a questionable approach.
When it comes to reducing the risk of runway overruns, all of these events are considered, but we typically pay close attention to Long Landings. It make sense that you are at greater risk of going off the end of the runway if you are not landing in the touch down zone.
The problem, though, is that there are some legitimate reasons for landing long that do not necessarily affect safety. For example, it could be a very long runway with a planned exit at the end of the runway.
Ultimately, it is up to the operator to decide what is acceptable under the circumstances and I do not intend to debate the safety implications of landing a turboprop aircraft halfway down a 15,000 ft runway, but I can tell you that Long Landings are one of our more frequent “nuisance” events that we run into with our customers.
We need to continue monitoring these events, but rather than focusing on the approach end of the runway, what if we put some of our attention towards the other end of the runway? You know, the end that we actually run the risk of going off of?
One way in which we are doing this with some of our customers is to use a parameter that calculates the runway remaining during the landing roll.
Keep in mind that this is not a parameter that is actually recorded on the aircraft but rather one that we can calculate using an airport database and the aircraft positional data (i.e. Latitude and Longitude). For this to work, you WILL need accurate GPS positional data recorded (INS/IRS position will not work for this), but that’s typically not a problem on a modern aircraft.
With this information available, we can now start doing some interesting analysis to help us learn whether or not it is just a matter of time before one of our aircraft goes off the end of the runway.
For starters, we can add a new Flight Data Monitoring event to flag any landings in which there is an uncomfortable amount of runway left at the end of the landing roll.
What’s the end of the landing roll? That depends on your aircraft type and your own operational requirements, but basically this would be the point where you consider the aircraft to be transitioning from Landing to Taxiing. Maybe 40 kts groundspeed or 30 kts or 50 kts. Whatever works for you.
You can then program an event to tell your Flight Data Monitoring system to “Look at the runway remaining on landing when we decelerate to 40 kts. If that’s less than some threshold, raise an event.”
The other interesting thing we can do is set up some snapshots. I love snapshots. If you are not familiar with them, a snapshot is similar to a Flight Data Monitoring event but rather than waiting for something unusual to happen (or an “exceedance”), we capture these data points for every flight.
With that in mind, we can set up a new snapshot that records the runway remaining for every landing when Groundspeed slows to 40 kts (or 30 kts, or 50 kts…)
Now you can start collecting data for all the runways at all the airports you fly to. With a good Flight Data Monitoring system, you will also be collecting the weather information that goes along with landings.
Weather information is very important here. With the exception of mechanical failure (or perhaps gross negligence) it is far less likely that an operator will experience a runway overrun under good weather conditions.
But, if you start noticing landings with little runway remaining under good weather conditions, you could be at higher risk of a runway overrun when the weather turns and the runway becomes wet or snow-covered.
Once you start collecting this information, it will not take long for you to identify high risk airports and runways. You may already have a good idea of what your high risk airports are, but I would argue that these really are not the greatest threat – the greatest threat will be from those airports/runways that surprise you once you start capturing this snapshot data.
One other thing I would like to point out is that this event pairs quite well with a “Soft Landing” event (if you’re not monitoring this, consider adding it to your library). If there is a tendency to try to “grease” every landing, at the expense of available runway, this could turn into a more serious problem if this becomes a habit that carries over to contaminated runways.
To sum up, I am not suggesting that we stop monitoring events during the approach phase of flights – far from it – the information we gather during approach is critical for improving safety.
But, adding a new perspective that focuses on the “other” end of the runway could provide us with new insights into how close we may be to becoming yet another embarrassing statistic sitting in the mud at the end of the runway.
Let’s keep in touch
Sign up to get notified of new blog posts, videos or other news and information related to flight data.