Runway Overruns

Passengers in Canada check-in and pass through beautiful terminals. But as a pilot, I’m concerned with the other side of the terminal – on the airfield, where I am responsible for safety and security of passengers and crew. People would be shocked to know that all that airport investment in Canada has not extended to some important safety infrastructure on the airfield itself.

Captain, B-767

At issue: Runway overruns

In 1999, following many runway overruns in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an order to create a Runway Safety Area Program to determine how to prevent such incidents in the future. This has led to a global standard for Runway End Safety Areas (RESA) – a paved extension on the end of a runway surface that offers vital protection to planes and passengers in the event of an overrun or underrun.
The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommended 300 metres RESA, and the FAA in the US has focused investment to ensure that their runways meet the same standard.
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) -- responsible for investigating transportation-related accidents and incidents in Canada -- has identified the lack of adequate safety areas at the end of airport runways as a particularly urgent issue. Yet today, only a small percentage of Canadian airports meet global runway standards for end-of-runway safety areas.
In 2005, for instance, an overrun at Pearson International Airport in Toronto destroyed an Air France jet and injured many passengers. The TSB recommended that all runways longer than 1,800 metres be equipped with a 300 metres RESA or alternative safety measure.

Canada falls behind in runway safety systems that meet international standards

Since the August 2, 2005 TSB report was issued, not a single RESA (or alternative) safety recommendation from that report has been implemented at Pearson, which is Canada’s largest airport and a major North American hub.  TSB has recommended longer runways be mandatory. Airports should not be allowed to ignore it.
More recently, the TSB has investigated 16 runway overruns since 2010 and this issue continues to be on the TSB safety watchlist.
Some of Canada’s airports are safer than others. Only three major airports in Canada – Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa -- currently provide RESA to ICAO recommended practice. Every Canadian deserves to have the same level of safety when flying in and out of our major airports.
TSB has reported 135 runway overrun accidents and incidents in Canada up until the beginning of October 2018.  On average, 9 overrun accidents and incidents occur annually – a rate 3-4 times the global average for runway overruns.
On runway safety, Canada compares unfavorably to the United States, where the FAA has ensured that 97% of American runways now meet ICAO recommended practices for overruns.

If RESA is not possible – EMAS

Where topography or other factors make RESAs unfeasible, many airports around the world offer an Engineered Material Arresting System – an “arrester bed” at the end of a runway that can halt an aircraft with minimal damage and injuries. Not a single runway at a major airport in Canada offers the industry-standard alternative to RESA. 
Thanks to strong guidelines from the FAA, these arrester systems have been rolled out extensively at US airports, where they have repeatedly proven their value. To date, these systems have safely stopped 14 overrunning aircraft carrying a total of 405 passengers and crew. In October 2016, the EMAS at New York’s La Guardia airport helped to prevent the then Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence’s airplane from a serious incident when it overran the runway in poor weather. According to the US National Safety Board, the 37 passengers and crew of 11 were not injured. 

ACPA Position

Transport Canada’s current standard of 150 metres for RESA is inadequate and places pilots, crews, passengers and the general public at an unacceptable level of risk, especially considering that Canada has had 3-4 times the global average for runway overruns.
  • As pilots, we believe that our largest airports (more than 325,000 passengers per year) should meet international practice (300 metres) for runway overruns, in line with the ICAO Standard and Recommended Practice (SARP), and as implemented by the vast majority of ICAO member states around the world. 
  • Canada should proceed with rolling out RESA of 300 metres on a priority basis to ensure that all airports with over 325,000 passengers annually are provided with the increased level of safety provided by implementing adequate RESA.

Reports and News Articles
Find the latest reports, articles and news coverage on runway overruns below.
Transportation Safety Board of Canada Watchlist
The mandate of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is to advance transportation safety, and the TSB Watchlist has identified runway overruns as a safety concern; 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018.
Transportation Safety Board says more action needed to reduce runway overruns in Canada.
On December 2, 2011, the TSB released an in-depth examination of an overrun at a Canadian airport with its report into the March 24, 2010 overrun of a Cargojet Boeing 727 in Moncton, New Brunswick.
(Read report number A10A00320).
TSB releases Watchlist 2018: a call to action on safety management and fatigue issues across the transportation industry
TSB issues a news release about safety issues and runway overruns.

Transportation Safety Board Watchlist 2018: A Call to Action
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada discusses runway incursions and runway overruns safety issues within Canadian airports.
Aviation Investigation Report on Air France, Flight 358: Runway Overrun and Fire
The Transportation Safety Board discloses its investigation report on Air France Flight 358 incident that took place at Toronto Pearson Airport on August 2, 2005.
CBC reports on the result of the TSB investigation in Halifax after 747 cargo jet goes off the runway last Nov 2018.

The Chronical Herald reports on a briefing from Transportation Safety Board about a runway overrun incident at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
On June 4, 2008, the Toronto Star reports on the Air France lawsuit alleging that that the Lester Pearson International Airport runway lacks proper safety margins and falls short of international standards.