January 16, 2020

Runway Overrun Areas Lacking


As a second airplane slides off the end of a runway at Halifax airport (CYHZ) in the span of 14 months, questions are being asked why Transport Canada-Civil Aviation has not been heeding the call by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) to comply with its recommendation to provide a longer overrun area for Code 4 runways (greater than 1800 metres (5905 feet) in length.

At around noon on January 5, a WestJet Boeing 737-800 with 172 passengers on board slid 50 metres (164 feet) off the end of a runway after what the airlines said appeared to be a normal landing in snowy conditions. This follows a similar incident in November of 2018 when a Sky Lease Cargo Boeing 747-400F cargo jet overran Runway 14 by 210 metres (689 feet) at the same airport. That incident resulted with the aircraft being written off due to extensive damage.

It was the crash-landing of an Air France Airbus A340-313 at Toronto’s Pearson airport in 2005 that led to the TSB recommendation. In the Air France incident, the aircraft overran the runway while landing in a storm and ended up in a ravine and catching fire. All passengers and crew survived, some with minor injuries. The TSB recommendation, A07-06, reads, “[The Board recommended that] the Department of Transport require all Code 4 runways to have a 300 m runway end safety area (RESA) or a means of stopping aircraft that provides an equivalent level of safety.”

According to the TSB, Canada is lagging other nations in implementing suitable RESAs. Current TCCA regulations call for overrun areas of 60 metres (197 feet) and recommends there be an additional 90 metres (295 feet) for a total of 150 metres (492 feet). At the Halifax airport, all overrun areas are only 150 metres in length.

Canadian airports that have voluntarily implemented the TSB-recommended RESA of 300 metres include Ottawa International (CYOW), Montreal-Trudeau International (CYUL) and Vancouver International (CYVR).

Photo by Ryan Taplin/The Chronicle Herald