A so-called runway incursion took place at Maastricht Aachen Airport on Monday 26 June 2017. This situation arose because a vehicle entered the runway without permission. LVNL is investigating this incident and has reported the occurrence to the Dutch Safety Board.
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 in the air, and between vehicles and other obstacles when on the ground. Air traffic controllers internally report any safety related occurrence, with the objective to learn lessons from those occurrences, thereby reducing the chance that similar occurrences will take place again in the future. All reported occurrences are investigated by LVNL, as part of LVNL’s ongoing commitment to improve safety.
Description of the situation
In the morning of Monday 26 June, the airport requested permission to allow a vehicle to cross the runway. This was refused by the air traffic controller because of a planned take-off of an aircraft, type Diamond Star DA40, a light twin-engine aircraft.
Shortly afterwards, the airport requested permission to allow persons to cross the taxiway. The air traffic controller gave permission for this. The air traffic controller then gave take-off clearance to the Diamond Star.
The air traffic controller saw that the vehicle to which no permission had been granted started to drive in the direction of the runway and immediately withdrew the Diamond Star’s take-off clearance. The aircraft crew then aborted the take-off.
The vehicle soon left the runway and the Diamond Star was given new take-off clearance.
Investigation results and follow-up actions
The investigation reveals that the driver of the vehicle thought approval to cross the runway was given by the air traffic controller, while this approval was intended for the person who crossed the taxiway on foot. In addition, communication with the driver of the vehicle occurred through an airport contact person, considering that the driver did not have the technical means to directly communicate with the air traffic controller. This way of working has developed over the years but is not in line with LVNL’s internal regulations.
The driver of the vehicle and the pilot of the Diamond Star were not aware of each other’s presence and intention, both due to the height difference of the runway and due to the fact that they were not able to hear each other on the same frequency (vehicle and airplane frequencies are separated at Maastricht Aachen Airport, as they are at multiple Dutch and foreign airports).
LVNL and Maastricht Aachen Airport are working together on a suitable solution to prevent these types of incidents in the future. However, an immediate decision was made to no longer allow runway crossings, other than those requested through the technical means intended for that purpose.
Classification: serious incident