Can Runway Status Lights Help to Reduce Runway Incursions?

ECA representatives attended in late April a Workshop at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) on Runway Status Lights (RWSL). This is a new and fully automatic system designed to reduce the number and severity of runway incursions. It had been successfully on trial in the US since 2005 and improved the situational awareness of pilots and vehicle drivers. Aeroports de Paris have a plan to implement RWSL systems on CDG's two inner runways, to be operational by 2012. One objective of the workshop was to identify the hazards of using both the current ICAO standard Stop Bars and the RWSL systems. CDG currently has approximately 30 runway incursions a year with 3 - 5 in the high risk Categories A and B.

On behalf of ECA and IFALPA, Captain Rob van Eekeren presented some of the latent traps in airport design and highlighted potential human factors implications of using RWSLs in addition to current ICAO standard lights (stop bars, colour-coded runway centreline lights). IFALPA recognises the potential of the RWSL system, but demands intrinsically safe solutions (such as perimeter taxiways that avoid runway crossings) as a primary consideration.

ECA Technical Director Heinz Frühwirth cautions that introducing the RWSL system in Europe might cause confusion amongst pilots, who are used to Stop Bars (perpendicular to the taxi direction) switched by air traffic controllers when issuing a clearance to continue taxiing. The situation in Europe is also different, as there are few airports in the US authorised for Low Visibility Operations, while Cat III B is common at the major European hubs. IFALPA has therefore requested its HUPER Committee to study the implications of implementing Runway Status Lights.

Further information on the RWSL can be found under www.rwsl.net