On Sunday 12 January 2014, at approximately 15.30 CET, a runway incursion occurred at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. LVNL has reported this incident to the Dutch Safety Board and is conducting its own investigation.
The term 'runway incursion' refers to 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 take-off of aircraft.
LVNL’s primary safety task is to maintain the separation of aircraft from one another, and also from vehicles and other obstacles when on the ground. Air traffic controllers internally report any incidents falling within our area of responsibility, with the aim of learning lessons from them and so reducing the chance that similar occurrences will take place again in the future. All reported incidents are investigated by LVNL, as part of our ongoing commitment to improving safety.
On Sunday 12 January 2014, at approximately 15.30 CET, a so-called runway incursion occurred at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. This situation arose because an air traffic controller overlooked the presence of a bird patrol vehicle on Runway 24 (Kaagbaan) and cleared a Boeing 737 (B737) aircraft for take-off from the same runway. Shortly afterwards, the patrol vehicle used the runway frequency to report that it was still on Runway 24. The air traffic controller immediately withdrew the take-off clearance for the B737. The aircraft was able to depart soon afterwards, without incurring any delay, once the vehicle had left the runway. LVNL has reported this incident to the Dutch Safety Board and is conducting its own investigation.
Air traffic controllers internally report any incidents falling within our area of responsibility, with the aim of learning lessons from them and so reducing the chance that similar occurrences will take place again in the future. All runway incursions at Schiphol are investigated, regardless of the extent of the danger they pose. The most common type of incursion involves traffic entering or being on an active runway without permission.
The principal underlying causes of such situations are:
- Misunderstandings in the communication between a pilot and an air traffic controller;
- The complex airport infrastructure at Schiphol;
- Incomplete situational awareness on the part of a pilot or an air traffic controller; and/or;
Safety risk categorisation
As well as determining whether or not a particular situation constitutes a runway incursion, it is particularly important to establish the extent of the danger it poses. If only one aircraft is involved in the incursion situation, that danger – the risk of conflict – is very low. Internationally, four severity categories for runway incursions (A-D) have been defined. These are illustrated below.
LVNL has completed its investigation into the runway incursion of 12 January 2014 on Runway 24 (Kaagbaan) at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Below is a summary of the incident, with an illustrative animation and infographic.
At 15.35 CET a bird patrol vehicle received permission from Air Traffic Control to enter Runway 24 (Kaagbaan) from Post Rijk and proceed in a southerly direction to conduct a runway inspection. At the same moment a taxiing Boeing 747-400 (B747) requested and received permission to cross Runway 24 in a northerly direction from Platform Sierra, at intersection S2. Meanwhile, a departing Boeing 737-800 (B737) standing at intersection S7 was cleared to line up on Runway 24. The pilot of this aircraft was warned by the Runway Controller about the B747 crossing at S2, but not told that a patrol vehicle was carrying out an inspection. The B747 left at S2 as planned and reported to ATC that it had cleared the runway. The B737 was then given take-off clearance for Runway 24, the tower overlooking the fact that the patrol vehicle was still on that runway. However, this vehicle was monitoring the tower frequency, heard the take-off clearance and, using the runway frequency, notified the tower that it was still on Runway 24. Assistant 2 immediately informed the Runway Controller, who ordered the B737 to abort its take-off. Once the patrol vehicle had left the runway, the B737 was able to depart without incurring any delay.
Runway Incursion Alerting System Schiphol
LVNL’s Runway Incursion Alerting System Schiphol (RIASS) acts as a “safety net” in the system of tower-led air traffic control at the airport, warning of potential conflicts between aircraft or with vehicles on the runways and at their entrances and exits. However, RIASS did not generate an alert in this case because the distance between the bird patrol vehicle and the B737 was too great: approximately 2 kilometres. There was therefore no danger of a collision.
Classification: major incident
Runway Safety Team
Reducing the risk of runway incursions is a constant focus of attention at Schiphol Airport. Part of the Schiphol Safety Platform (VpS), the Runway Safety Team (RST) is an advisory body made up of representatives from the aviation industry and has runway incursions as its principal theme. Drawing upon information about specific incursions and general trends in this area, its objective is to devise measures and procedures to reduce their incidence. Throughout the aviation world, runway incursions are recognised as a key safety issue and so attract considerable investment in terms of both time and money.
Reducing the risk of runway incursions is a constant focus of attention at Schiphol Airport. To this end, LVNL has now introduced a so-called “runway occupied” strip. Thanks to this visual aid, the air traffic controller can see not only that a runway is occupied but also how many aircraft or vehicles are on it. In the situation which gave rise to this particular incident, the controller would now place two of these strips in the runway bay: one for the bird patrol vehicle and one for the taxiing B747. This procedure prevents an occupied runway being incorrectly designated as clear.
Infographic runway incursion 12 januari 2014
Animation runway incursion 12 January 2014