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The deployment of 2 runways at Toronto Pearson Airport poses serious crash risks, says TSB



The Transport Security Council recommends changing the location of two runways at Canada's busiest airport to reduce the risk of collision between aircraft.

This recommendation was one of the three reports contained in the Independent Security Guard's report following an investigation into 27 runways at Toronto Pearson International Airport from June 2012 to November 2017. t

The TSB determines the runway invasion as an incident when an airplane or a land vehicle mistakenly takes an active runway. The worst scenario would be a direct collision between two planes.

According to researchers, all Pearson accidents occurred between two "closely spaced parallel runways" at the southern end of the airport area. Both runways are connected by a number of "quick exit taxis" – small stages of the runway planes can be used to move from one to the other.

Both runways are used simultaneously at peak hours in Pearson, and each can see hundreds of take-offs and landings in one day.

"This means that when an aircraft is unloaded, it has to get off the road as soon as possible, because the next approaching plane can only be seconds," Ewan Tasker, Ont, said at a morning news conference on Richmond Hill.

Airplanes use high-speed output taxis shown here in red to move between parallel runways at Pearson International Airport's southern complex. Both runways are used at airport peak hours. (Transport Safety Authority)

Problems arise when the airplane is on the southern runway and tries to pick one of the taxis on the adjacent runway, TSB said.

Tasker notes that the taxi layout differs from almost all other major North American airports and has a number of "unusual" design features. This has led to confusion among flight crew members and increased the risk of a major collision, the report says.

"All 27 inquiries were related to flight crew members who realized they had to stop and that they were approaching an active runway," said Kathy Fox, chairman of the board.

"Notwithstanding all visual indications, including light, sign and color markings, professional crews did not stop sufficiently in time, thereby endangering a collision with another aircraft on the second runway."

Fox said at least five of the last seconds of air traffic controllers' interference – she duplicated them as "the first and last line of defense in these attacks" – prevented potentially serious clashes between planes.

The red line in this chart shows where the taxi planes must stop to ensure that the parallel runway is clear. Thanks to Pearson's "unusual" design features, some flight crews are confused about where they need to stop the plane. (Transport Safety Authority)

The larger Toronto Airport Authority, which oversees operations in Pearson, offers several options to address the existing invasion problems, Fox said. After all, you will need to do the following:

  • Change the taxi linking both runways, designs and positions.
  • Create a "perimeter taxi" that runs around another active runway.
  • Create a completely separate "intermediate taxi" between two parallel runways.

In the statement, GTAA stated that it was reviewing the recommendations of the TSB.

"Security is our top priority, and we will continue to make improvements that will allow us to continue working safely with the surrounding communities and nearly 50 million people using Toronto Pearson every year," the organization said.

"In addition to special improvements to our runways and taxis, new lighting systems and mandatory LED lighting we have also provided the latest information on safety and education for different airlines.

The TSB's short-term recommendations include:

  • Changes in the language of air traffic controllers are used to transfer safety-critical commands.
  • Working with Transport Canada and the US Federal Aviation Administration to change standard operating procedures, crews only start post-flight checks after the landing aircraft has cleared all active runways.

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