How pilots avoid runway overruns

A few weeks ago, a Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-800 attempted to land in wet and stormy weather in Istanbul. After touching down, it didn’t slow down as planned and ran off the end of the runway where it broke into three pieces.

In the resulting carnage, 180 people were injured and three people were killed.

Whilst the official investigation is still under way, runway overruns, or runway excursions as they are known in the aviation industry, are a well-understood event.

The history of aviation accidents has identified the main causes of a runway excursion and as a result, procedures have been put in place to minimise the chances of them occurring.

Safe stopping plan

As the saying goes, safety doesn’t happen by accident. The safe delivery of passengers from gate to gate starts right at the top of an airline with the culture a CEO promotes to their staff. This mindset will filter all the way down the company, directly to the front line where the pilots are the final arbitrators of safety.

Within the industry, this is known as the “Swiss cheese” model. An accident never happens for one single reason. It’s only when all the holes of a Swiss cheese line up that the errors in the system will result in an accident. Even with 99% of the holes lining up, there’s one last chance to stop an accident from happening and this lies with the pilots.

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