Illustration includes screenshots from flightradar and flightawareThe new year has already seen multiple runway incursions shown on the radar and in ATC audio. Statistics are showing runway incursions are on a steady rise. Flying is seen as one of the safest modes of transportation. Airports see a large number of private and commercial aircraft daily and during the most vulnerable stage for an aircraft. Safety at airports is paramount with such a large number of aircraft in and out and factors like pilot error or a runway incursion can cause potentially fatal errors. With flight radars tracking a plane's every move, several incidents have been noted recently at airports involving close calls.RELATED STORY:Video shows close encounter of a Cessna 172 and Boeing 757 during takeoff; FAA investigating
A video caught a close call between a single-engine Cessna 172 and a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 on Aug. 17, 2022, with the aircraft reaching only three-tenths of a mile horizontally and 500 feet vertically at the closest proximity. Another close encounter occurred on Jan. 13 between American Airlines 777 and a Delta Airlines 737 at John F. Kennedy International (JFK), the incident was shown in a flightradar24 video and the ATC audio revealed a mistake made by the crew on the 777.
On Friday, a parked United Flight 2135 had its wing clipped by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Fox5 reported that there were no passengers in the United plane and the tip of the wing was ripped off. The FAA is investigating the incident.
Just one day later, another incident was seen on the radar. FedEx 767 and Southwest Airlines 737 at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) had a possible runway incursion, showing a scary close call on the radar when the planes overlapped as the 767 landed and 737 departed. Flightradar24 discussed what was seen in the incident, with the planes less than 1000 feet apart.
Flightradar24 posted the video showing the near-miss and said the NTSB was investigating the incident. They said that the initial ADS-B data shows the landing Boeing 767 overflying the 737. The New York Times said the 767 was forced to abort its landing when the airline flight was cleared to depart from the same runway.
The ATC audio was also posted to Twitter, with Southwest being cleared and then told to abort as FedEx was on the go. The FedEx flight initiated a go-around as the Southwest flight was departing. The ATC mentioned reduced visibility conditions, flightradar also mentioned that conditions at the time of the incident were "marginal and decreasing."
This stretch in aircraft close-calls has involved different fields of aviation, from commercial to general. With websites like flightradar tracking flights across the country, the public can easily spot concerning interactions and be an online witness to possible disasters. The incidents have all been heavily covered on social media, with many flocking to sites like Twitter to watch the video of the flight on the radar and listen to ATC calls.
Most accidents involving aircraft occur during the takeoff or landing phase when the plane is closer to the ground and more vulnerable, according to 1001crash. Most plane crashes involve general aviation planes since there are more GA aircraft in the sky than commercial. The FAA said there are 14,400 private-use airports and 5,000 for public use, and these airports see daily traffic, especially now with a rise in private aviation.
Air travel has been a part of society for over 100 years and aviation safety has improved substantially since its initial implementation. Based on a passenger-distance calculation, air travel is one of the safest methods of transportation. When comparing air travel with other modes on a fatality-per-mile basis, air transport is six times safer than traveling by car and two times safer than rail.FAA Chart on runway incursions
Runway incursions are aviation incidents that involve improper positioning of the aircraft or personnel on the runway or a protected area. Flight Safety Foundation said that the last fatal runway incursion was on Aug. 27, 2006, when two flights attempted to take off from the same runway and of the 50 passengers and crew, only a first officer survived.
"The bad news … is that despite several interventions, the most severe incursions [Category A and B incursions, which fit the definitions of incidents in which collisions are most likely] … have been on the rise since 2011, after declining for several years," NTSB member Christopher Hart said to Flight Safety.2023 and 2022 total runway incursions compared
According to the FAA, in 2022 the total number of all runway incursions in all regions in the U.S. was 1,732. The total number by Feb. 3, 2023, has already reached 466. These numbers include the possible sources for an incursion, like operational incidents, pilot deviations and vehicle/pedestrian deviations. The danger with runway incursions is the increase in the likelihood of a collision.
Mid-air or ground collisions occur when two or more aircraft come into unplanned contact. Severe damage can result from collisions and often results in the destruction of one or more aircraft. The human condition is a large contributor to collisions and near-misses, with factors like miscommunication, navigation error, change in flight plans or lack of awareness.
Collisions often happen near an airport, since more aircraft are closer together than in general flights. The first recorded collision occurred in Milan, Italy on Oct. 3, 1910. The first fatal collision occurred in France on June 19, 1912. Since the early incidents in aviation history, there has been the implementation of many programs, rules and new technologies to prevent such incidents.
The deadliest accident in aviation history was a collision between two Boeing 747 passenger jets, resulting in the death of 583 people. It is rare for incidents to involve so many fatalities, as most occur in smaller general aviation planes with substantially fewer passengers. The first aircraft incident where 200 or more people died did not occur until 1974 and as of April 2020, there have only been 33 aviation incidents involving the death of over 200 people.Learn more about runway incursions from the FAA
The recorded recent near-misses have not resulted in any fatalities but raise concern over the frequency of the incidents. The rate of accidents across the world has improved, but with an increase in flying, there could be an increase in air incidents. Runway incursions were steadily lowering but have seen an increase again from 2021 to 2022 and there have been numerous close calls already encountered in 2023.