When safety is your destination: Don’t cross it, stop it

This Airport Safety Week the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and Airservices Australia are again reminding pilots and operators to observe and obey stop bar lights at runway intersections where installed at Australian airports, and not cross a lit stop bar at any time.

Stop bar lights are red when illuminated and are embedded across the taxiway at runway holding points and intersections. They are controlled by Airservices Australia air traffic controllers during operational tower hours as an added safety measure to prevent an aircraft or authorised vehicle unintentionally entering or crossing an active runway.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said that since 1 September 2015, more than 100 runway incursions involving stop bars at Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra airports have been reported to the ATSB, involving aircraft and airside vehicles.

“Fortunately, none of these runway incursions have resulted in any accidents, but they have involved a range of aircraft including airliners and general aviation aircraft as well as authorised airport vehicles, and they have occurred at different times of the day and night, and at different airports and holding points,” Mr Mitchell said.

“This year’s theme for Airport Safety Week is ‘Safety is always our destination’ and gives the ATSB and Airservices Australia the opportunity to remind pilots and operators to ensure they operate in line with all safety instructions regardless of what phase of flight they are in or where or how they are operating at an airport, including taxiways.”

Mr Mitchell said the ATSB’s investigation into a runway incursion and subsequent rejected take-off event at Perth Airport on 28 April 2018 highlighted the need for all pilots, no matter their experience or what aircraft they fly, to always observe for, and comply with the stop bar directions.  

“In this occurrence, after landing, a Boeing 737-800 crossed a lit stop bar and entered the active crossing runway where another 737 had commenced its take-off roll,” Mr Mitchell said.

“The Airservices Aerodrome Controller in Perth Tower alerted the departing aircraft to the runway incursion and instructed the 737 to stop. Both aircraft stopped safely and there was no collision.”

Airservices Head of Aerodrome Services, Craig Charker, reinforced that all pilots and authorised airside drivers must only proceed when an air traffic controller has given the appropriate verbal instruction and has also switched off the stop bar lights.

“If you have a verbal clearance to enter the runway but the stop bar lights remain lit, please query this with air traffic control before proceeding,” Mr Charker said.

“For your safety and the safety of others, you cannot cross an illuminated stop bar. I encourage all operators and pilots to include checking the stop bar status as a requirement in their line up and crossing runway checks.”

Read the investigation report into the runway incursion involving Boeing 737, VH-XZM, and subsequent rejected take-off involving Boeing 737, VH-VZL, at Perth Airport

Last update 18 October 2021