ICAO Vocabulary Level 6: Runway Incursions and Runway Excursions | How to say it?

Runway safety is one of the underlying areas in terms of general safety improvements. Both runway incursions and excursions are the most common type of potentially life-threatening situations that happen. A “runway/taxiway excursion is the most frequent category of accidents, representing 22 percent of all accidents over the period of 2010 – 2014” according to IATA. A lot of initiatives were already undertaken in order to introduce a vast group of preventive measures that will help lower this score both of runway incursions and excursions. When it comes to the statistics of the runway excursions, “between 2009 – 2013 there were 98 runway/ taxiway excursions; 7 of them involved fatalities.”

In this article, I’d like to show you the most important vocabulary that can be used when you have a chance to discuss the different aspects of the prevention of one of the most to predict on-ground events.

What is a Runway Incursion?

ICAO defines a runway incursion as ‘any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft. ‘ (Doc 4444 “Procedures for Air Navigation Services”)

In general, when we talk about runway safety these are the key areas of interest:

– a runway incursion,

– a runway excursion,

– a runway collision,

– undershoots,

– overshoots,

– tail strikes,

– hard landing events.

An Emirates A380 at Manchester airport

What is Runway Incursion and Excursion?

Runway excursion – “A veer off or overrun off the runway surface.” (ICAO)

Veer off – an aircraft is departing the side of the runway (Skybrary)

Overrun – an aircraft is running off the end of the runway (Skybrary)

Overrun can take place both on landing and on takeoff.

3 Types of Runway Incursion

1) Operational Error / Deviations

2) Pilot Deviations

3) Vehicle or Pedestrian Deviations

All the details about the types of runway incursions are described in “FAA Safety Report Runway Incursion Trends and Initiatives at Towered Airports in the United States, FY 2000 – FY 2003”, from which I included a comprehensive table:

Types of runway incursion

Source: FAA Safety Report


A Human Factor

– The lack of proficiency is often caused by the ack of flying.

– Unfamiliarity with an airport can result in confusion and delay reactions that may cause inappropriate actions.

– It takes a minor distraction to make a significant mistake.

– Always maintain a sterile flight deck during arrival and departure operations.

– A lapse of concentration = a lapse in attention.

A behavior unbeknownst to the rest of aircrew.

– A priority to enhance a pilot’s situational awareness.

A misunderstanding = a discrepancy: a difference between two things that should be the same.

– To lose a separation = to be in a conflict.

– An incursion occurs when…

– Extra vigilance is the key to safe taxi operations at non-towered airports.

– To be at imminent risk of serious injury or death.

To intervene after a dangerous situation.

Pay attention to the contrasted runway position markings.


– To taxi onto the runway.

Perpendicular to (formal)- at an angle of 90° to a horizontal line or surface.

– To be assembled in a lineup awaiting radio instructions.

– To make a backtrack.

– To taxi against the flow of traffic. / The plane is taxiing against the flow of traffic (when you’re describing a picture during an examination)

Two Southwest Airlines Boeings 737

A Runway Incursion / A Runway Excursion

– To be involved in a runway incursion.

– To collide on a runway.

To utilize a runway as a taxiway.


– To have an airport diagram on his person (formal) – in a pocket, bag, or something else that you are holding

– To warn an off-course jet.

– To monitor the tower frequency or CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) in case of non-towered airports.

– The number and proximity of aircraft operating at an airport make taxi operations one of the most dangerous parts of commercial aviation.

– Communication, planning and the flight deck procedures developed by the FAA significantly reduce the number of incursions during the ground movement phase of aircraft operation.

– It’s important to be familiar with an airport’s layout, markings and current signs at each airport.

How To Increase Runway Safety?

I found a pilots’ and ATC’ oriented video made by FAA that precisely shows how to avoid runway incursions and increase the safety of all flying operations. I noted down my best choices here. The whole video is available here:


1) Communicate clearly

Always state the location of an aircraft using only ATC standard phraseology.

You have to re-state your location after every radio frequency change to a different tower or ground control.

Read back all the instructions and clearances when entering a specific runway, holding short of a runway or when directed to a position and hold.

If in doubt – always ask for clarification. If you’re still not sure what to do – ask for the progressive taxi instructions from a tower. It’s a service-oriented job so don’t hesitate.

2) Plan

An initial flight briefing: a pre-departure and arrival briefing that begins before boarding the aircraft. Current airport knowledge is a key factor in avoiding a runway incursion.

– Identify the runway incursion hotspots.

– Discuss any recent changes to the airport infrastructure.

– Identify size-related limitations.

– Review the latest ATIS and NOTAMs.

– Identify adverse weather or airport conditions.

– Discuss the ground movement.

– Coordinate checklists and company communication timing.

– Discuss “heads-down” procedures – one person performs the head-down tasks (FMS).

– Study an airport layout/ diagram and enhance the situational awareness.

– Discuss regional language and terminology differences that may impede the proper communication with ATC.

– Use recommended exterior lightning to make an aircraft more conspicuous and signal location and intent to other pilots. Listen to inbound IFR traffic and become familiar with the local traffic pattern.

– Utilize FSS, CTAF and UNICOM.

Reducing the number of runway incursion is a shared responsibility.

Two LOT Boeings at EPWA airport.