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The taxiway layout at Canada’s busiest airport raises the risk of airplane collisions and should be changed, the national air safety investigator says.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) made that recommendation and two others as it released a report on 27 cases between 2012 and 2017 in which passenger planes failed to stop at the line separating taxiways from active runways at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

“The Transportation Safety Board has identified a troubling pattern at Pearson International,” said Kathy Fox, chairwoman of the TSB, at a news conference Thursday. “We are recommending that the Greater Toronto Airports Authority [which runs the airport] make physical changes to the taxiway layout.”

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The TSB also recommended Transport Canada and the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) require pilots' standard postlanding checks be delayed until they have cleared all active runways to ensure they keep their eyes on the taxiways. Finally, the TSB says Nav Canada’s air traffic controllers should more emphatically issue orders to flight crews that they must stop at the hold line ahead of another runway.

All the Pearson incidents involved the same two of the airport’s five runways, after the planes landed on the outer runway and began taxiing across the inner runway in the southern part of the airport. The two runways are closely spaced, parallel and directly connected by taxiways with sharp curves, design features rarely found at major airports. The direct link raises the chances of a plane crossing a live runway as it taxis to the terminal, while the hold lines after the curves are not where crews expect them.

The incidents largely involved U.S. regional airline crews. The pilots in all cases were instructed by air-traffic controllers to stop short of the other runway and had acknowledged the order, yet proceeded past the line before again being ordered to stop by air traffic controllers, said Ewan Tasker, regional operations manager at the TSB, which investigates incidents in the country’s aviation, railway, pipeline and marine industries and makes non-binding recommendations to eliminate hazards. “The severity of those events range from moderate to quite serious,” he said. “Luckily here, the last line of defence did prevail.”

Ms. Fox said none of the Pearson runway intrusions resulted in collisions, but all posed a risk to public safety. There are about 445 such incidents a year in Canada.

“Why does this keep happening?” Ms. Fox said. “After all, Pearson airport traffic is tightly controlled and monitored. In addition to the specific instructions from air traffic controllers to stop and hold short of the other runway, flight crews receive cues from multiple lights, warning signs and painted lines on the ground. How then does a professional, highly trained, experienced flight crew miss all those cues? And why does it happen so frequently?”

The possible physical changes to the layout include building a taxiway between the runways, or one that travels the perimeter, or altering the design and position of the taxiways, Ms. Fox told reporters.

Ms. Fox said the TSB looked at 130 airports worldwide, including the 60 busiest U.S. airports, and found Pearson is the only one that has sufficient room for an intermediate taxiway between parallel runways, but does not have one.

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“Ultimately, it is up to the GTAA to decide which physical changes are made. Until those changes are made, we want to see further improvements to increase the visibility of these hold-short positions. Because clearly more needs to be done so that all flight crews see the cues and react as required,” Ms. Fox said.

Transport Canada has 90 days to respond to the TSB report. The FAA and the GTAA are not required to respond or take any action in response to the report.

In a statement, the GTAA said it will review the TSB recommendations. The airport operator said that since 2013, it has worked with carriers to reduce such incidents and has made improvements to taxiways and runways that include new lighting systems and backlit signs.

example of rUnway incursion investigated

0

4

Pearson Airport

KM

TORONTO PEARSON

INTERNATIONAL

AIRPORT

Toronto

Lake Ontario

Required

stopping

position

Taxiway

0

250

METRES

Touchdown

zone

Runway 24L

used for

landing

Runway 24R

used for

takeoff

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: transportation safety

board canada

example of rUnway incursion investigated

0

4

Pearson Airport

KM

TORONTO PEARSON

INTERNATIONAL

AIRPORT

Toronto

Lake Ontario

Required

stopping

position

Taxiway

0

250

METRES

Touchdown

zone

Runway 24L

used for

landing

Runway 24R

used for

takeoff

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: transportation safety board canada

example of rUnway incursion investigated

0

4

Pearson Airport

KM

TORONTO PEARSON

INTERNATIONAL

AIRPORT

Toronto

Lake Ontario

Required

stopping

position

Taxiway

0

250

METRES

Touchdown

zone

Runway 24L

used for

landing

Runway 24R

used for

takeoff

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: transportation safety board canada

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