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Remarks before the Runway Incursion Summit, Washington, DC
Jim Hall
Runway Incursion Summit, Washington, DC

Thank you, Jane, for that kind introduction. I'm pleased to be able to join you this afternoon. And, I want to apologize for not being able to spend more time at I what I consider to be one of most important summits ever held in this city. But, I must return to our Board meeting on two other important issues - emergency aircraft evacuations and hardcore drunk driving.

Last December, while Administrator Garvey and I were participating on a panel at Secretary Slater's International Aviation Symposium, I suggested that she hold this summit to gather together the best minds on the runway incursion issue - in the hope that, together, we could find solutions to one of the aviation community's most critical problems.

She not only embraced the idea - she expanded and improved upon it by also holding workshops with stakeholders across the country to ensure that all viewpoints are being heard and considered. And, she has placed new emphasis and increased focus on this issue by revamping, revitalizing, and stabilizing the FAA's Runway Safety Program. I want to congratulate Jane and the team she has assembled, under the leadership of John Mayrhofer, for not only for the success of this summit, but for their hard work in seeking solutions to this critical issue.

As you are aware, runway incursion prevention is one of the ten issues on the Board's Most Wanted list - where it has been since that list's inception in 1990. Over the years, we have issued more than 70 recommendations to address the problem, the most recent only two weeks ago at the Board's last meeting.

I was pleased to see that the participants in the FAA's regional workshops arrived at similar recommendations, indicating that we are reaching consensus on what needs to be accomplished. It is our hope that our recommendations and the Board's ongoing work on this issue will help shape and focus, not only your activities here over the next two days, but the aviation community's efforts to effectively and expeditiously solve this problem.

We all know that more must be done to prevent runway incursions - and that no single individual or agency has all the answers. If that were the case, the problem would have been solved years ago. But, it hasn't - runway incursions continue to occur - almost on a daily basis. Some with catastrophic - and tragic - results. Just a few weeks ago, there was a fatal collision between a cargo airplane and an MD-80 in Paris. And, I'm sure you are all aware of the several close calls that have occurred here in the United States during the past year.

Tonight, you'll hear from Captain Robert Bragg, a survivor of the deadliest accident in aviation history - the collision of two 747s in Tenerife. We have been fortunate that there haven't been more Tenerifes. But, as I said at our Board meeting - luck makes a poor basis for public policy.

We need to find answers - now - before our luck runs out. And, we all know that the potential for disaster is increasing. Over the past ten years, aircraft operations (including commercial, commuter aircraft, general aviation, and military) have increased nationwide by 9 percent and are projected to grow by another 25 percent over the next ten years. However, at the nation's ten busiest airports (Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Chicago, Phoenix, and St. Louis), aircraft operations have increased by 44 percent, on average, in the last 10 years, and are projected to grow by another 27 percent in the next ten years.

While this growth reflects a healthy air transportation industry, we cannot allow the quest for increased capacity to compromise safety. Policies, procedures, regulations and technology must all evolve together to accommodate the demands being placed on airports and air traffic control services.

That's why this meeting and your active participation are so important. Together, you have a unique opportunity to find solutions that will alleviate, perhaps eliminate, runway incursions. I hope as you continue your discussion, you'll look beyond the current processes and technologies to explore new ideas and new methodologies.

So far, technical approaches to the prevention of runway incursions have been long on promise and short on performance. Incursions result from many different causes, making them resistant to a "one-size-fits-all" solution.

Yesterday, regional workshop participants described specific actions taken by local ATC personnel and airport staff to reduce incursions where they work. In most cases, these solutions were low tech and relatively low cost, but effective in addressing known safety problems. While there is a place for technology in incursion prevention, as the individuals who came up with those ideas can attest, human creativity can be just as effective - and it's available today, right here in this room. The solutions are there, but we have to be willing examine all the possibilities, implement those that help us reach our goal, and discard those that do not.

Thank you all for agreeing to participate in this summit - it is important not only to the aviation community, but more importantly, it is vitally important to the safety of the traveling public. I look forward to hearing your recommendations at the conclusion of the summit. Again, I apologize for not being able to stay to listen to the rest of the panel discussions.