The Transportation Security Board recommends changing the two runways to Canada's busiest airport to reduce the risk of airborne collisions.
That recommendation was one of three involved in an independent security watchdog report after an investigation into 27 attacks on the runway at Pearson International Airport in Toronto between June 2012 and November 2017.
The TSB defines the cancellation of the runway as an incident in which an aircraft or land vehicle "misjudges an active runway". The worst-case scenario would be the direct collision between the two planes as a result.
According to researchers, all Pearson incident occurred between two "close parallel runways" at the southern end of the airport base. The two runways are connected to several "fast outgoing lines" – small sections of the runway aircraft can be used to move from one to another.
Both runways are used at the same time during hours at Pearson, and everyone can see hundreds of take-offs and landings in one day.
"That means that when the plane landed, it needs to wear out as soon as possible, because the next approaching aircraft can only be a few seconds behind," said Evan Tasker, a TSB researcher, at the morning press conference at Richmond Hill , Ont.
The problems arise when the plane landed on the southernmost runway and is trying to take one of the tracks on the neighboring runway, TSB said.
Tasker notes that the layout of the tracks is "different from almost all other major North American airports" and has several "unusual" features of the design. This resulted in confusion among flying teams and increased the risk of a major collision, the report said.
"All 27 searches were being investigated by flying crews who realized they should stop and that they were approaching the active runway," said Kathy Fox, chairman of the board.
"Despite all the visual signs, including lights, signs and color marks, professional teams did not stop in time as needed, causing a collision with another plane on the runway."
Fox said that in at least five cases, the last second of air traffic controllers' interventions – she called them "the first and last line of defense in these incursions" – prevented potentially serious collisions between planes.
The Toronto airport department, overseeing operations in Pearson, has several options to deal with the current intrusion problem, Fox said. In the end, one of the following should happen:
- Change the design and the positions of the taxiways connecting the two runways.
- Construction of a "perimeter route" that moves around the other active runway.
- Construct a completely separate "intermediate ride" between the two parallel runways.
In a statement, GTAA said it was considering TSB recommendations.
"Security is our top priority and we will continue to make improvements that will allow for continuous safe operation for surrounding communities and nearly 50 million people who use Toronto Pearson annually," the organization said.
"In addition to the concrete improvements of our runways and trails, new lighting systems and compulsory marking of LED backlighting, we have also provided state-of-the-art safety information and educational information" to different airlines.
The short-term recommendations of the TSB include:
- The use of airborne language control language changes is used to convey security critical commands.
- Working with Canada for Transportation and with the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States to change standard operating procedures, crews start only with landings after the landing plane cleared all running runways.