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Remarks at the NTSB Runway Incursion Forum Promoting Runway Safety, Washington, DC
Mark V. Rosenker
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Runway Incursion Forum Promoting Runway Safety, Washington, DC

Opening remarks:

  • Good morning.  My name is Mark Rosenker and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
  • It is my pleasure to welcome you to the NTSB Boardroom and our Runway Incursion Forum and its goal of “Promoting Runway Safety.”
  • As you know, today marks a dark milestone in civil aviation – the deadliest aviation accident in history – the collision 30 years ago of two jumbo jets on a runway in the Canary Islands that took 583 lives when a KLM 747 took off without a clearance and clipped a Pan Am 747 as it was taxiing on the runway.
  • Today, we’ll hear an eyewitness account of the accident from Captain Robert Bragg, the co-pilot of the Pan Am 747 that was struck in the accident.  He is here with his wife,
  • For those of you who may not be familiar with Capt. Bragg, he graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Aeronautical Administration.  As a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, he flew T-34’s, T-33’s, C-121 Constellations, and the C-130E type aircraft.
  • After leaving the Air Force he was employed by Pan American World Airways and flew DC-6’s, B-727’s, B-707’s, L-1011’s, and the B-747.
  • After United Airlines purchased Pan Am’s Pacific routes in 1987, Capt. Bragg transferred to United Airlines where he was a line check airman, and flew the B-747-100 and -400. During his career, he logged over 33,000 flight hours.
  • For his efforts in assisting crew and passengers after the accident, Captain Bragg received the President’s Award for Heroism, FAA’s Achievement Award, and the Flight Safety Foundation’s Award for Actions During an Accident.
  • Also at today’s forum we will hear assessments of the current runway incursion problem and obtain updates from government, aviation industry organizations, and safety advocates.
  • We will hopefully find out more about current and future educational initiatives and technological solutions available to the FAA, airports and aviation industry organizations, and pilots to make sure that accidents, like that at Tenerife, never happen again.
  • I encourage you take time today to look at the various technologies and equipment that are on display in the lobby and conference room outside this meeting room.
  • The NTSB has been an ardent proponent of reducing runway incursions and accidents for quite a long time. Since 1973, the NTSB has issued about 100 runway safety recommendations.
  • These recommendations have addressed the need for improvements in air traffic control operations, training and hardware; pilot training; airport signs; lighting and markings; airplane conspicuity and incident reporting.
  • Prevention of runway incursions has been on the Board’s list “Most Wanted Transportation Improvements” since the list was inaugurated in 1990.
  • What our investigations have revealed is that the FAA’s current solution, AMASS, does not prevent an incursion or accident in all situations.  It takes too long for the alert to reach the pilot.
  • The recommendation currently on the Most Wanted list asks the FAA to require, at all airports with scheduled passenger service, a ground movement safety system that will prevent runway incursions. The system should provide a direct warning capability to flight crews.  In addition, demonstrate through computer simulations or other means that the system will prevent incursions.
  •  We need a direct warning to the cockpit. We do not specify a technology or system. We just want something that goes directly to the cockpit.
  • We believe this most recent recommendation, when implemented, will be a major factor in reducing and hopefully eliminating runway accidents.
  •  Every year we investigate near collisions of aircraft on runways that could have been catastrophic if it weren’t for sharp-eyed crews with expert piloting skills and a little luck.  I believe we’ll see an animation of another serious incursion later this morning.
  •  But I said it before and I’ll say it today.  Luck should not be part of the safety equation.
  •  Before we begin this very important forum, I’d like to introduce the NTSB staff participating in today’s events. Sitting to my right is Tom Haueter, the Director of the Office of Aviation Safety, and to my left is Dr. Vern Ellingstad, Director of Research and Engineering.
  •  On the technical panel there is Dan Bartlett, Dr. Bill Bramble, Paul Misencik, Sandy Rowlett, and Dave Tew from the Office of Aviation Safety.
  •  At the table coordinating questions from the audience are Office Director Elaine Weinstein, Jeff Marcus, and Pat Cariseo from the Office of Safety Recommendations and Advocacy.
  •  Finally, I’d like to recognize my fellow Board Members in the audience – Vice Chairman Robert Sumwalt, Members Debbie Hersman and Steven Chealander.  Member Kitty Higgins is not here today. She is traveling in Arizona and Wisconsin to promote the NTSB’s recreational boating safety recommendations.
  •  This forum would not be possible without the panelists from the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Defense (Air Force and Navy), Flight Safety Foundation, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Air Line Pilots Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Regional Airline Association, American Transport Association, and the Association of American Airport Executives. And everyone in the audience for their interest in aviation safety.
  •  We will begin with Capt. Bragg’s eyewitness account of the accident in Tenerife, followed by a brief presentation by Ms. Rowlett.
  •  We will then have three panels. Each panelist will give their presentations and when the entire panel is complete, the Safety Board technical panel and the audience will have an opportunity to ask questions.
  •  If you would like to ask a question of anyone in the panel, on your 3x5 index card, write the name of the person you would like to address the question and the question.
  •  Someone from the Safety Board staff will collect the card from you.
  • And a final note: This meeting is also available via live web cast.  Web site visitors can view the Board’s public meeting by logging on to our website:

Closing remarks

  • I want to commend and thank everyone for their excellent presentations and the information they shared with us today.
  • Today is the anniversary of a horrible event that happened 30 years ago, and it’s important to remember it.
  • But I hope today’s forum will be ultimately remembered for the light it shed on the problem and potential solutions.
  • Most importantly, I hope that the Safety Board and all the Federal agencies and organizations here today are re-energized into tackling this problem.
  • Thank you all again.