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ATSB: Objective interpretation of runway surface conditions can help reduce the risk of runway excursions
18 September 2018

The ATSB is advising pilots to be conservative when relying on pilot reports for runway surface conditions, in particular, when the conditions are considered damp.

The ATSB’s investigation into the reduced braking effectiveness during landing of a Boeing 737-800 at Christchurch International Airport (New Zealand), 11 May 2015, highlights the how misperceptions of runway surface conditions can lead to runway excursions.

After touch down on runway 29, the Boeing 737-800 did not decelerate as expected during the later stages of the landing roll. The crew overrode the autobrakes, applied hard manual braking and retained the use of reverse thrust until the end of the runway. The aircraft stopped about 5 metres from the end of the runway.

The ATSB found that, due to an increased workload, the crew misperceived the runway surface conditions, believing it to have a damp surface condition when in fact it was wet. This resulted in the aircraft’s expected landing performance not being achieved.

 

Considerable efforts have been made by organisations such as the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address this issue with the introduction of the runway condition assessment matrix. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will be adopting the FAA’s runway condition assessment matrix in November 2020.

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) have advised the ATSB they anticipate aligning their runway condition definitions with ICAO post 2020.

Until then, pilots are advised to apply a conservative approach when relying other pilot reports for runway surface conditions, in particular, when the conditions are considered damp, the ATSB states.

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