ATSB recommends runway overrun guidance for ALAs

(Source: ATSB)

The ATSB is recommending the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) publish guidance for the inclusion of safe runway overrun areas at aeroplane landing areas (ALAs).

This formal Safety Recommendation to the aviation regulator stems from the ATSB’s investigation into the fatal accident of a Van’s RV-6A amateur-built aircraft at Somersby, near Gosford NSW, in March 2018. The investigation found an increased risk of occupant injury from a runway excursion at an ALA compared to certified aerodromes.

During landing, the aircraft initially touched down at about the runway’s midpoint at high speed, bounced several times and finally touched down when 125 metres from the runway end. The aircraft over-ran the runway end by 20 metres before impacting the side of a small watercourse, where the aircraft came to a complete stop. The pilot sustained serious injuries in the impact, and succumbed to his injuries two days later. There were no indications of an attempt of a go-around.

As part of the subsequent investigation, the ATSB compared the number of occupant injuries from runway excursions at ALAs with those at certified aerodromes. The analysis found the number of injuries after a runway excursion at an ALA was three times that at a certified aerodrome.

Between 2014 and 2018, there were 99 runway excursion occurrences at ALAs reported to the ATSB. Of these, 10 occurrences resulted in injury (10 per cent), compared with 250 runway excursion occurrences at certified or registered aerodromes, with eight occurrences resulting in injuries (3 per cent).

ALAs are not subject to CASA’s Manual of Standards for aerodromes, which mandates there should be at least an area 30 metres clear at the end of a runway at certified aerodromes to reduce the risk of damage and injury from a runway excursion.  

Instead, CASA’s Guidelines for Aeroplane Landing Areas 92-1(1) outlines considerations for ALA owners relating to obstacle clearance in the proximity of the runway surface area, but contains no specific advice for clear and flat runway overrun areas.

Should a runway excursion occur, obstacles in the overrun area at the end of an ALA runway can increase the risk of injuries to occupants and aircraft damage

“Where possible, ALA owners should consider the inclusion of a runway overrun area,” ATSB Transport Safety Director, Dr Stuart Godley said.

“Should a runway excursion occur at an ALA, obstacles at the end of the runway can increase the risk of occupant injury and aircraft damage.”

As a result of the investigation, the ATSB has issued CASA with a Safety Recommendation to publish guidance for the inclusion of a safe runway overrun area in their advisory publication for for ALAs. This publication is a key guideance source for anyone building or maintaining an ALA.

“In this case, the presence of the watercourse at the end of the runway increased the risk of aircraft damage and serious occupant injury as the aircraft stopped significantly faster than it would have if the area had been cleared of obstacles,” Dr Godley said.

Nonetheless, this investigation once again highlights the importance of pilot preparedness to conduct a go-around if the landing criteria are not met or if there are indications of an unstable landing.

“The need for pilots to anticipate, plan and execute go-arounds remains a key safety message from the ATSB for the avoidance of runway excursions,” Dr Godley stressed.

The investigation did not identify any technical issues with the aircraft, including its engine and brakes.

Read the report: Runway excurison and collision with terrain involving a Van's RV-6A, VH-OAJ, Somersby (ALA), NSW, 18 March 2018

Last update 29 January 2020