Runway incursions are, unfortunately, still a major issue for many airports throughout Europe and the rest of the world. In Europe alone, it is estimated that there is one runway incursion a day. This is one too many when you consider the potentially disastrous consequences of any kind of collision on a runway.

To help tackle the issue, the European Runway Safety Initiative (ERSI) produced the first European Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Incursions (EAPPRI) in 2003. Since then, EAPPRI has undergone two revisions which have introduced additional guidance and recommendations to help tackle this critical issue.

But how does the the EAPPRI guidance affect your driver training programmes?

Runway Safety Teams have been established at airports throughout Europe to help implement the EAPPRI recommendations. Despite this, runway incursions are still an issue for many airports, and something that needs to be tackled through airside vehicle and ground support equipment (GSE) driver training programmes.

Runway incursions and airside vehicle operations

The runway incursion issue is not centered exclusively on airside vehicles – ground support equipment, plant equipment and aircraft all contribute to the problem. However, EAPPRI V3.0, published in November 2017, identified vehicle operations as high risk and introduced a series of recommendations regarding the training of vehicle and equipment operators.

What should airside vehicle training and GSE training cover?

According to EAPPRI, training for airside vehicle operators should cover:

  • Generic airside vehicle driver training, including operational health and safety as well as the risks and controls associated with operating vehicles, plant equipment and ground handling equipment close to the runway
  • Vehicle inspections, maintenance and defect reporting
  • Specific training on different types of equipment, for example, car-based vehicles, tugs, high loaders, and pushback equipment
  • Hazards relating to taxiways and runways
  • Radio communications and phraseology

Training and Airside Safety Management Systems

Training, and continuous development of operational driving staff should form part of any Safety Management System.

Basic training on airside vehicles and ground support equipment, supplemented by specific and on-the-job training, are essential components of driving safety in any environment, as are ongoing assessments of driver competence and recurrent training.

In the airside environment it is vital that vehicle and equipment drivers are competent in the use of their equipment. They must also be aware of safe operating standards and the risks presented by both their work and their working location. This is, after all, a fast-paced and hazardous environment where situational awareness and communication are essential.

The importance of an Airside Driving Permit (ADP) programme

As well as airport vehicle training and ground handling equipment training, for those operating on taxiways or on/near runways an effective ADP programme will help cover important topics such as aerodrome topography, communication protocols, active runway safeguarding measures, signage and light signals. It is essential that vehicle and airside equipment operators are well-versed in safety protocols relating to the runway. In a high number of runway incursion incident reports, communication and navigation errors are a significant factor.

Causes of runway incursions

Simple rules such as “drivers must not access the runway without permission from Air Traffic Control (ATC)” and “red lights mean stop” are often found to have been broken when runway incursions are investigated. It is also not uncommon to find that drivers involved in runway incursions believe they had a right to be on the runway without ATC permission.

For this reason, EAPPRI places a high value on Runway Safety as an integral part of airside vehicle driver training. This is also why the guidance promotes the importance of analyzing, learning from and sharing lessons learnt with the wider airport community in the aftermath of any runway incursions or near misses.

Supervising airside vehicle operations

While it is important, training on its own is not the answer. The supervision and management of airside vehicle drivers is critical if ongoing safety standards are to be maintained. After all, how can good operating standards, transparency and reporting be maintained if management does not embrace a culture of support, openness and communication?

All too often, operators are trained and then left to their own devices with very little follow-up or intervention, unless something goes wrong, by which point it’s too late. This ultimately leads to bad habits, complacency and shortcuts in operational behavior.

Additionally, a lack of attention to operational staff can leave them feeling outside the system and disengaged. This in turn has a negative impact on reporting and buy-in regarding safety standards, not to mention staff retention. It is critical that ground personnel, including vehicle drivers and ground handling equipment operators, are made aware of their essential role in airport safety and overall operational efficiency.

Airside Vehicle Driver Training

The guidance and recommendations found in EAPPRI can strengthen an airport’s Safety Management System, but only if they are correctly incorporated.

From the point of view of vehicle and equipment operations, this means developing airside training packages that not only educate drivers, operators and supervisors in the specifics of vehicle operation, but also raise awareness of driver responsibility, runway incursion risks, openness and communication.

RTITB Airside Training Consultancy

For help with planning, creating, delivering or auditing airside vehicle and GSE driver training, the RTITB Airside team can help. Wherever you are in the world, the expert team can provide support with airside inspection and ground handling audit services, standardized airside equipment Instructor training, bespoke airside vehicle operator training courses, and more.

Get in touch to find out more.