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The dangers of using a phone while driving airside

An incident at Mackay Airport has highlighted the potential distraction presented by portable communication devices, especially in the dynamic airside environment.

On 29 June 2012, a Piper PA-31 Navajo aircraft, took off from runway 05 at Mackay Airport. At that time, an Airport Safety Officer (ASO) was conducting an airfield runway and lighting inspection in an airfield safety vehicle and moving in a north-westerly direction along runway 32. Despite an earlier air traffic control instruction to hold short of runway 05, the ASO was distracted by a telephone call and continued along runway 32, crossing runway 05. The Piper PA-31 passed over the airfield safety vehicle by an estimated vertical distance of 30 feet.

The ATSB reminds airport workers to always remain focussed during airside operations.

In 2012, Airservices Australia published the third edition of An Airside Driver’s Guide to Runway Safety. This publication identified a range of safety measures intended to help reduce the likelihood of runway incursions, including information about situation awareness and communications. This publication also highlighted the importance of scanning runways before entering or crossing a runway.

A Department of Infrastructure and Transport road safety grant report titled In-car distractions and their impact on driving activities recognised that distraction from a mobile telephone may divert a driver’s mental and perceptual attention from the task of driving, and may increase response times to events.

The investigation report AO-2012-090 provides important advice about airside operations.

You can find this and other investigations in the ATSB’s Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin issue 13. The bulletin highlights valuable safety lessons for pilots, operators and safety managers.

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Last update 04 January 2013