Schumer called on the FAA to expedite construction and installation of Runway Status Lights –red lights embedded into the runway that can be turned on to signal to pilots that a runway is not safe to cross - at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports.
Congress provided the necessary $36 million for New York’s airports to receive this system in 2007, but this past weekend there was a near collision of a Caribbean Airways plane with a JetBlue plane at JFK airport.
Schumer said that 9 out of 17 eligible airports have had the Runway Status Light system installed, but none of New York’s airports have an operable safety system that could avoid dangerous collisions between aircraft.
“New York’s airspace is the busiest in the nation, yet JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports have been sent to the back of the FAA line for installation of this critical runway lighting system, that is proven to help prevent airplane collisions,” said Schumer. “We cannot wait for a deadly collision to occur before we prioritize the installation of this highly-effective light system at New York’s airports.”
According to the FAA, Runway Status Lights are designed to reduce the number, and severity of runway accidents between aircrafts, and serve as an added layer of safety without impacting traffic flow. There are two kinds of lights: Takeoff Hold Lights and Runway Entrance Lights.
The lights are embedded in the pavement of runways and taxiways, and turn red to tell pilots and vehicle operators to stop when runways are not safe to cross. The lights require no input from controllers and are designed to supplement existing air traffic controller tools and procedures.
Schumer said that in the nine airports across the country where Runway Status Lights have been installed, there’s been a clear improvement in safety. Over the course of more than two years at Dallas Fort Worth Airport, runway incursions dropped by 70 percent.
Schumer highlighted several near-collisions at New York airports in recent years. He said that while there is no way to determine after the fact whether Runway Status Lights would have prevented these collisions, it’s clear that additional safety measures are critical to avoid future tragedy:
· December 2014: The wingtip of a Southwest plane, which had 143 passengers and crew members on board, fell off after impact with an American Airlines plane, which also had 143 people on board, at LaGuardia.
· October 2014: A Chautauqua Airlines jet (operating under the Delta name) with 44 passengers was clipped by a Royal Jordanian Airlines plane carrying 159 passengers at JFK. The Delta jet was parked and waiting to approach the gate when the nose of the other aircraft hit the plane’s tail.
· May 2013: The wing of a Scandinavian Airlines jet, carrying 252 people, clipped the tail section of a United Airlines ExpressJet regional plane, carrying 31 passengers, at Newark. The ExpressJet plane was taxiing toward the runway in preparation for takeoff, with the Scandinavian Airlines plane following directly behind. As the Scandinavian jet turned right onto a different taxiway, its wing clipped the tail of the ExpressJet plane.
· June 2011: A Lufthansa plane with 286 passengers nearly collided with an EgyptAir plane at JFK. The EgyptAir plane taxied into the Lufthansa plane’s path as it was approaching full lift-off speed as it was about to take off. The EgyptAir plane had turned the wrong way onto the runway, and an air traffic controller called the Lufthansa plane to cancel takeoff. According to news reports, the planes were only several seconds away from colliding.
· April 2011: At JFK an Air France plane collided with a Comair plane, which had 62 passengers on board. The wing of the Air France jet struck the tail of the regional jet, spinning the smaller plane around about 90 degrees. The accident occurred at a taxiway intersection after the Comair plane landed and as the Air France plane prepared for takeoff.