The Transportation Safety Board recommends changing the location of the two runways at the busiest airport in Canada to reduce the risk of collision between aircraft.
This recommendation was one of three included in the Independent Security Report after its investigation of 27 separate runways at Toronto Pearson International Airport from June 2012 to November 2017.
The TSB defines an invasion of the runway as an incident in which an air vehicle or land vehicle "mistakenly occupies an active runway". In the worst case, the result will be a direct collision between two planes.
According to investigators, all the incidents with Pearson occurred between two “closely spaced parallel runways” in the southern part of the airport. Two runways are connected by several “fast exit” taxiways – small sections of the runway can be used to move from one to another.
Both runways are used simultaneously at peak hours in Pearson, which makes about 400,000 flights a year.
According to TSB, problems arise when the plane landed on the southernmost runway and tries to bring one of the taxiways to a neighboring runway.
In its report, TSB notes that the location of the taxiways "is different from almost all other major airports in North America."
According to TSB, this led to confusion among flight crews and increased the risks of major collisions. The report mentions problems with the design of the airfield, and busy flight crews miss various clues.
“In all the 27 incursions reviewed, flight crews participated, who understood that they needed to stop and that they were approaching an active runway,” said Kathy Fox, chairman of the board at a press conference in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
“Despite all the visual cues, including lights, signs and paint marking, professional crews did not stop on time, as required, thus risking colliding with another plane on another runway.”
Fox said that at least in five cases, the intervention of air traffic controllers at the last second prevented potentially serious clashes between aircraft.
Other TSB recommendations include:
- Make changes to the language used by air traffic controllers to transmit commands important to safety.
- Together with Transport Canada and the United States Federal Aviation Administration, the standard operating procedures should be modified so that crews begin checks after landing only after the landing plane clears all active runways.