Needing Dreadle?

Sounds like AMASS did little more in this affray than provide historical data.

July 8, 2004 - FAA Probes 2 Close Calls At O'Hare

CHICAGO (USA) - Two city trucks strayed onto an active runway at O'Hare International Airport within minutes of each other last month, forcing two planes to abort their landings and prompting a federal investigation.

Radar tapes show the aircraft were traveling about 160 m.p.h. at altitudes of only 200 to 300 feet when the pilots noticed the yellow city trucks on the runway, officials said Wednesday.

The trucks then swerved onto the grass and the pilots spooled up engine power and climbed away from the airport in an emergency maneuver called a go-around, the officials said.

Minutes after the two close calls on the night of June 27, one of the same Chicago Department of Aviation pickup-truck drivers almost repeated his error. He turned back from the runway only when he saw an approaching plane--which happened to be the same Northwest Airlines DC-9 that had aborted its initial landing, authorities said.

"The driver was so shook up by [driving on the runway] that he almost immediately committed [the same mistake]," said Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA has launched an investigation, focusing on training methods for drivers at the airport, Isham Cory said.

So-called runway incursions are the leading cause of commercial aviation accidents and rank as one of the FAA's top safety priorities.
Pilots abort landings

The incidents took place after 11 p.m. as part of the airport was undergoing repairs.

The planes and the trucks came as close as 3,000 feet of each other in the two incidents, Isham Cory said. It translates to only a few seconds until a possible collision because of the speed of the planes. Separation standards were not violated in the third event, the FAA said.

City aviation officials declined to discuss details of the close calls. They would only identify the two drivers as a 10-year veteran of the department and an employee who worked eight years as a seasonal driver before being hired full time in April.

Chicago police ticketed both drivers for failure to yield right of way to aircraft, and their driving privileges on the airfield were revoked, said aviation spokeswoman Annette Martinez. She had no information whether tests were administered for illegal drugs or alcohol.

"They both have good driving records. These are their first incidents. They are human and it was human error," Martinez said. She added that disciplinary action is expected and that the drivers will be retrained and tested.

The drivers, who were trying to cross the runway,
violated the cardinal safety rule on the airfield by entering an active runway without receiving the go-ahead from ground-traffic controllers, officials said. Part of the investigation will focus on why they tried to cross the runway instead of using a service road that goes around the airstrips.

In the first incident, which occurred at 11:11 p.m., the city driver pulled onto Runway 32 Left where it intersects Runway 27 Left. He turned in the direction of the oncoming Northwest Airlines DC-9, which was arriving from Minneapolis and was between one-eighth and one-fourth mile from the tip of 32 Left, officials said.
The pickup driver steered off the runway into the grass as the pilot banked the jetliner in a climb to avoid a possible collision.

At 11:15 p.m., a second driver crossed onto 32 Left in the same location while a Boeing 747 freighter operated by Polar Air Cargo tried to land, the radar tapes show.
That driver also veered into a grassy area when he realized his mistake, by which time the pilot was already flying a go-around, officials said.

Within minutes, the same driver crossed a "hold line" painted on the pavement that vehicles are prohibited from passing without clearance. He "realized his mistake, turned around and crossed the hold line again," Isham Cory said. The driver backed away in time for the Northwest plane to land on its second touchdown attempt.

Air-traffic controllers were alerted to the trucks by a warning system installed several years ago that senses potential conflicts on runways and taxiways. The Airport Movement Area Safety System processes and enhances data from traditional ground radar to determine potential collisions between planes in the air and anything on the ground--including planes, airport vehicles or even people on foot.

Isham Cory said the FAA probe will analyze the type of training the drivers received before being certified to drive on the airfield and whether the training deviated from FAA requirements.

"Studies show that many of these events are due to human error--lack of attention, knowledge, training or other issues," she said.

The investigation will also determine whether airfield signs and lighting need improvements, she said. Both Runways 32 Left and 27 Left were open at the time of the incidents, and repairs were being made to nearby taxiways. Investigators will look at whether the drivers mistakenly thought the runways were closed because of the construction activity.

Before June 27, only five similar errors occurred at O'Hare in the last 2 1/2 years, the FAA said.

Martinez said the city is awaiting feedback from the FAA. But she said aviation officials will "see if there is anything we can add to our training program to prevent this from happening again."

She said Aviation Department drivers are required to take a defensive driving program designed by the National Safety Council as part of their certification to drive on the airfield. Martinez also said O'Hare won the Pilot Friendly Award in 2002 from the Air Line Pilots Association for contributions to enhancing runway safety.

The president of the air-traffic controllers union at O'Hare agreed that the city has taken steps over the years to prevent runway incursions by vehicles and aircraft. But he said the errors by truck drivers last month should serve as a warning to potential problems when the airfield is torn up for the planned O'Hare expansion.

"We are extremely concerned about more incursions if the O'Hare expansion takes place," said Craig Burzych, president at O'Hare tower of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

"These truck drivers for the city were certified, experienced and trained.
What's going to happen when we have hard-hat guys driving dump trucks who don't have any idea where they are at?"