Runway excursion

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A runway excursion is a runway safety incident where an aircraft makes an inappropriate exit from the runway. Runway excursions include runway overruns, where an aircraft is unable to stop before it reaches the end of the runway. Runway excursions can happen because of pilot error, poor weather, or a fault with the aircraft.[1]

According to the Flight Safety Foundation, as of 2008, runway excursions were the most frequent type of landing accident, slightly ahead of runway incursion.[2] For runway accidents recorded between 1995 and 2007, 96% of runway accidents and 80% of accidents with fatalities involved runway excursions.[2]

Management and prevention[edit]

Efforts to address runway excursion either focus on preventing runway excursions, or on minimizing the amount of damage or injury caused by a runway excursion. In the latter category, aviation safety regulators may establish standards such as minimum runway safety areas intended to allow adequate time and distance for an aircraft to stop in the event of a runway excursion.

Runway widening and extension[edit]

A key aspect of preventing runway excursions is providing runways of sufficient length and width to accommodate the aircraft used at an airport. In the 1960s, the advent of jet airliners such as the Boeing 707, which operate at faster speeds including at takeoff and landing relative to earlier propeller-driven airliners, required longer runways. In the mid-1960s, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed increasing minimum runway length requirements by 800 feet (240 m) at all U.S. airports with jet airliner service, extending to 1,200 feet (370 m) feet in rain or snow conditions. However, these requirements would have necessitated building extending runways or even building new airports in some cities. After strong industry response, the FAA withdrew the proposal and instead only mandated a fifteen per cent increase to minimum runway length during wet or slippery landing conditions.[3]

Preventing runway excursions can necessitate building new airports, when there is not room to expand existing runways. In July 1965, Continental Airlines Flight 12 (a Boeing 707) overran the runway while landing in rain and high winds at Kansas City Municipal Airport. Investigators ruled out pilot error, and determined it would have been impossible to stop the aircraft in the available runway length. Extending the 7,000 foot (2,100 m) runway was not possible due to space limitations surrounding the urban airport, and construction on Kansas City International Airport north of the city was approved the next year, opening in 1972 with runways 9,500 feet (2,900 m) and 9,000 feet (2,700 m) in length.

Engineered materials arrestor system[edit]

Airports such as LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, may lack adequate space to meet runway safety area standards. As a result, in the 1990s, the FAA began conducting research on new technology to rapidly stop aircraft in less than 1,000 feet (300 m) in the event of a runway overrun.[4]

The engineered materials arrestor system (EMAS) was developed as a high energy absorbing material that could be installed as a surface beyond the end of runways, which was designed to collapse under the weight of an aircraft (absorbing energy and slowing the plane in the process) in the event of an overrun. EMAS was installed at LaGuardia Airport starting in 2005 and ending in 2015.[4] In October 2016, a Boeing 737 aircraft with 37 persons aboard, including Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence, overran the runway while landing at LaGuardia. EMAS was credited with bringing the plane to a stop safely and with no serious damage or casualties.[5][6][7]

As of December 2020, EMAS has been installed at more than 100 runway end locations at more than 50 commercial airports in the United States, and has safely stopped 15 aircraft involved in runway overruns.[8]

Flight systems technology[edit]

Airbus is developing the Runway Overrun Prevention System, a flight systems technology intended to prevent runway overruns by increasing pilots' situational awareness and enhancing automation during landings.[4]

Notable runway excursions[edit]

As noted above, runway excursions are a frequent occurrence annually. The following list includes runway excursions which are notable because they resulted in fatalities, destruction of the aircraft, or substantial aviation safety changes or improvements.

Event Year Location Description
TAP Air Portugal Flight 425 1977 Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, Portugal A Boeing 727 operating the service overran the airport's runway before crashing onto the nearby beach and exploding, killing 131 of the 164 people on board. It remains TAP's only fatal accident in its history. [9][10] The runway was 1,600 m (5,249 ft) long at the time of the crash. It would be extended in 1986 to 1,800 m (5,906 ft) and again in 2000 to 2,781 m (9,124 ft).
China Airlines Flight 605 1993 British Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong To avoid a runway overrun and collision with the approach light system, the captain of a Boeing 747-400 deliberately veered the plane off the left side of the runway and into Victoria Harbour. No one was killed, but the plane was written off as a hull loss.
Philippine Airlines Flight 137 1998 Philippines Bacolod City Domestic Airport, Bacolod, Philippines The Airbus A320-214 overran the runway due to pilot error and crashed into a residential area. There were no fatalities out of the 130 passengers and crew on board the aircraft, but three people on the ground were killed, and there were many injuries. The aircraft was written off as a loss.[11]
LAPA Flight 3142 1999 Argentina Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, Buenos Aires, Argentina A Boeing 737-204C overran the runway after the pilots accidentally attempted to take off with the flaps retracted. The plane sped across a highway, striking a car, before smashing into construction equipment and bursting into flames, killing 63 of the 100 people aboard, as well as 2 people on the ground, and injuring 3 on the ground as well.
American Airlines Flight 1420 1999 United States Little Rock National Airport, Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S. A McDonnell Douglas MD-82 overran the runway, crashed into an approach lighting structure, and broke apart, killing 11 of the 145 occupants.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1455 2000 United States Bob Hope Airport, Burbank, California, U.S. A Boeing 737-300 landed too fast to stop on a wet runway, crashed through a perimeter wall and came to a stop near a gas station. Everyone survived, but due to structural damage the aircraft was written off.
Lion Air Flight 538 2004 Indonesia Adisumarmo International Airport, Surakarta, Indonesia While landing in wet weather, the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 overran the runway due to hydroplaning and poor aircraft braking performance. After leaving the runway, the aircraft struck an embankment and split into two sections. 25 of the 153 people on board were killed.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 2005 United States Midway International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, U.S. A Boeing 737-700 overran the runway while landing in a snowstorm and crashed into automobile traffic, killing one person on the ground.
Air France Flight 358 2005 Canada Toronto Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Canada An Airbus A340 overran the end of the runway and came to rest in a ravine. 43 people were injured, and the aircraft was destroyed by a post-crash fire.
S7 Airlines Flight 778 2006 Russia Irkutsk International Airport, Irkutsk, Russia The Airbus A310 overshot the runway and struck a concrete barrier at high speed, causing the aircraft to break apart and igniting a massive fire. 125 of the 203 occupants were killed.
Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 2007 Indonesia Adisutjipto International Airport, Yogyakarta, Indonesia During landing, the Boeing 737-400 departed the runway, crashed into a rice field and burst into flames. Of the 140 occupants, 21 were killed.
TAM Airlines Flight 3054 2007 Brazil São Paulo–Congonhas Airport, São Paulo, Brazil An Airbus A320 overran the runway while landing in rain, and crashed into a warehouse. All 187 people on board, and 13 people on the ground, were killed.
Sriwijaya Air Flight 62 2008 Indonesia Sultan Thaha Airport, Jambi The Boeing 737-200 overran the runway due to a hydraulics malfunction of the aircraft and crashed into a house. There were no fatalities out of the 130 passengers and crew on board the aircraft, but one person inside the house was killed. The aircraft received substantial damage and was written off. [12]
American Airlines Flight 331 2009 Jamaica Norman Manley International Airport, Kingston, Jamaica A Boeing 737-800 landing in rain and a tailwind touched down more than 4,000 feet from the start of the runway. Unable to stop in the remaining distance, it broke apart on rocks near the shoreline. No one was killed, but 85 people were injured and the plane was destroyed.
Air India Express Flight 812 2010 India Mangalore International Airport, Mangalore, India The Boeing 737-800 overshot the end of the runway, went through a 300 feet (91 m) sand arrestor bed meant as excursion protection, then slid down a steep hillside. 158 of the 166 occupants were killed.
Caribbean Airlines Flight 523 2011 Guyana Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Georgetown, Guyana A Boeing 737-800 overran the runway while attempting to land in rainy weather. All occupants survived, but the aircraft was irreparably damaged and seven people were injured.
Pegasus Airlines Flight 8622 2018 Turkey Trabzon Airport, Trabzon, Turkey A Boeing 737-800 ran off the left side of the runway during landing and slid down a cliff, stopping short of the water. No one was killed, but the aircraft was destroyed.
Pegasus Airlines Flight 2193 2020 Turkey Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey A Boeing 737-800 overran the runway while landing in heavy rain and high winds, and broke into several pieces. 3 of the 183 people aboard were killed.
Air India Express Flight 1344 2020 India Calicut International Airport, Kerala, India A Boeing 737-800 overran the tabletop runway, skidding off the end of the runway and crashing into a gorge. The aircraft was carrying 190 people including 6 crew members. A total of 21 people, including both pilots, were killed in the crash.


  1. ^ "Runway excursion". Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Runway excursion most frequent type of landing accident: Flight Safety Foundation". FlightGlobal. March 14, 2008.
  3. ^ Fromm, Gary (July 1968). "Aviation Safety". Law and Contemporary Problems. 33 (3): 590–618. doi:10.2307/1190943. JSTOR 1190943. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "How These Special Blocks Likely Saved Mike Pence's Plane From Disaster". Fortune. October 28, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  5. ^ Mele, Christopher (October 27, 2016). "Plane With Mike Pence Aboard Skids Off La Guardia Runway". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  6. ^ Walker, Karen (October 27, 2016). "LaGuardia runway EMAS saves US VP candidate aircraft". Air Transport World. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  7. ^ Hradecky, Simon. "Accident: Eastern Air Lines B737 at New York on Oct 27th 2016, overran runway on landing long". Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  8. ^ "Fact Sheet – Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS)". Federal Aviation Administration. December 16, 2020.
  9. ^ "B3A Aircraft Accidents Archives". Archived from the original on December 10, 2015. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  10. ^ "Desastre aéreo na Madeira: 123 mortos" [Air disaster in Madeira: 123 dead]. Acervo Digital - Folha de S.Paulo (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  11. ^ "Accident Description". Aviation Safety Network. March 22, 1998. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  12. ^ "Accident Description". Aviation Safety Network. August 27, 2008. Retrieved April 11, 2020.