Runway Excursion Trends in 2020
- Advanced Aircrew Academy
With the reduction in overall business aviation flying in 2020, we expected to see a decrease in the number of runway excursions. For years we have consistently seen on average a business aviation runway excursion every two weeks in the United States. With a Hawker 800XP runway excursion in Farmingdale, New York on December 21st, we lived up to our annual average with 25 excursions during 2020.
Wet or Contaminated Runway
Wet or contaminated runways continue to be the dominate causal factor in business aviation runway excursions. Check out the seven excursions on wet or contaminated runways from both 2019 and 2020. Notice any commonalities?
In 75% the runway excursion incidents involving a wet or contaminated runway during 2020, there was no Field Condition (FICON) NOTAM published, although the runway met the criteria for the airport to publish a FICON NOTAM. In another excursion, the actual runway condition was worse than what was being reported.
If there has been a recent snowfall, it is raining, or a rain shower recently passed over the airport and there is no FICON NOTAM, that should raise your level of suspicion whether or not the reported condition matches reality. In dynamic conditions (like heavy rain or snow) FICON NOTAMs also may not accurately represent actual conditions. Ask yourself, "Based on current weather, can I expect the runway condition to be improving or declining since the last report?"
In approximately 50% of the wet or contaminated runway excursions Advanced Aircrew Academy researched, the runway was not grooved and did not have a Porous Friction Course (PFC) overlay. In some of these excursions, pilots reported hydroplaning.
If your preflight planning shows the runway may be wet or contaminated (FICON NOTAM, chance of rain or now in forecast), then check to see if the runway is grooved or has PFC overlay. Jeppesen Charts and the Chart Supplement note if the runway is grooved or has PFC. From a human factors perspective, this can be a trap because it is the absence of information that you need to look for.
Finally, the trifecta of a wet or contaminated runway combined with being un-grooved and a strong crosswind or tailwind is one that should be avoided at all costs. Even 2 of those 3 factors should be considered a high-risk event.