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Small Tulsa airport lands high on runway incident list

Updated:
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Five cases that landed Tulsa high on a federal list of runway run-ins took place at a general aviation airport, not Tulsa International, an airport official said Friday.

Tulsa ranked 15th in the nation in 1999 for its rate of cases in which airplanes or vehicles interfered with each other on airport runways.

Nationwide, the Federal Aviation Administration recorded 322 incidents last year, just three less than the year before. The
incidents, called incursions, involve a collision hazard at an airport but not an actual crash.

All five Tulsa cases took place at Jones Airport, a tower-controlled airport that serves mostly single-engine aircraft and small corporate jets, said Brent Kitchen, director of the Tulsa Airport Authority.

All cases involved vehicles driving where they weren't supposed to be, Kitchen said. In one case, a woman rode her motorcycle up and down the runway.

"We have looked at each occurrence and they seem to be random," he said. "In essence, it has been vehicles that have just inadvertently driven out on the runway."

Unlike Tulsa International Airport, which serves major carriers, Jones' runway is not secure, he said. While restrictions are posted, the smaller airport's front gate is open through the day to provide access to aircraft and hangars, he said.

"We feel we're a little bit unlucky this year," Kitchen said. "More than usual has happened."

In addition to the motorcyclist's Saturday morning joy ride, airplanes had to take action when a supplier to a private hangar cut across the runway, a car searching for the nearby Tulsa Technology Center met an airplane on a taxiway and other cases of hangar guests driving where they shouldn't, Kitchen said.

The closest call involved an airplane that was within a quarter-mile of landing when the vehicle got in the way, he said.

The tower instructed the plane not to land.

The cases involved small aircraft with slower approach speeds than air carriers "and certainly not the same requirements of safety and security of airports that carriers fly into," he said.

With 10 incidents, Los Angeles International had the highest total. But it ranked 21st in the country in incidents per 100,000 operations, with a rate of 1.285.

The highest rate of incursions was recorded by the Springfield, Ill., airport at 4.799, though it had just four incidents. Tulsa had a rate of 1.818. About 750 takeoffs and landings take place at Jones each day.

A majority of incursions across the country last year, 182, were listed as mistakes on the part of pilots and two-thirds of those involved private pilots, not commercial airliners, FAA spokesman William Shumann said.

Airports with higher rates tended to be ones with more flights by private pilots rather than busy commercial airports.

In addition to pilot errors, 80 incursions nationwide were attributed to air traffic control errors and 60 to vehicles or
pedestrians on runways.

In March, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey launched a new effort to reduce the number of incursions, which had grown since 186 were
recorded in 1993.

She announced a series of regional meetings across the country where airlines, airport officials, commercial and private pilots, air traffic controllers could meet to discuss ways to reduce these incidents.

Kitchen said the need to provide ground access to aircraft and costs make it difficult to heighten security at Jones Airport.

He said he is bothered that the FAA list does not clearly indicate that the incursions took place at a smaller airport. Such incursions at a carrier airport would be a "truly significant
event," he said.

"I have suggested to the FAA that they need to change reporting systems because it does look more serious than it is," he said.


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