Recent Airplane Crash in Japan Highlights Rise of Runway Incursions
Photo by Niklas Jonasson on Unsplash
A natural disaster in Japan was followed by a tragic aviation disaster, as an aircraft crashed into a Coast Guard plane carrying aid for the recent earthquake. Five of six crew members were killed on the smaller plane. The larger aircraft burst into flames on the runway of Tokyo airport. All 379 people on the plane were able to be evacuated.
This accident highlights an increasing risk of accidents and near-misses on runways across American and even the world. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that 19 major runway incursions occurred in 2023. This worrying trend is confirmed by a recent New York Times report that claims runway incursions have increased by 25% since a decade ago.
Runway intrusions and near-misses could be on the rise for a number of reasons. First and foremost, one major concern in air traffic control towers has been personnel. Due to the FAA's difficulty keeping up with the demand for fully-licensed air traffic controllers, the current workforce is required to perform mandatory overtime and is becoming fatigued. Fatigue and extended work hours can impair controllers' capacity to efficiently handle air traffic, raising the possibility of mishaps.
Another level of complexity is added by inexperienced commercial airline pilots, as the airline industry rushes to fill what it calls the “pilot shortage”. An overall lack of knowledge and uncertainty regarding air traffic control orders could be to blame. This emphasizes how improved training curricula are required to meet the unique needs of inexperienced pilots.
Better technology is also desperately needed for air traffic control. The smooth coordination of aircraft movements on the ground can be hampered by antiquated methods and poor technology, which could result in confrontations and near-misses. To guarantee the security of air travel, investments in updating air traffic control systems are essential.
Aviation officials throughout the world need to put manpower shortages, improved pilot training, and investments in cutting-edge air traffic control technologies at the top of their priority list in order to slow down the increasing number of runway incursions and near-misses. The tragic accident in Japan highlights this today, more than ever.