Boeing and Embraer have revealed plans to co-develop new pilot procedures, training aids and flight deck technology to reduce runway excursions–one of the top three contributors to aircraft accidents.

The flight safety initiative is the latest venture to emerge from the two companies following the signing of a co-operative agreement in April. The two have signed up to collaborate on Embraer’s KC-390 tanker-airlifter and Super Tucano aircraft programs, as well as on the development of sustainable aviation biofuels made from sugarcane.

According to a joint statement from Boeing and Embraer, runway excursion accidents “remain a concern” and have resulted in more than 780 fatalities from 15 accidents from 2002 to 2011.

Corky Townsend, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ director for aviation safety, says the plan initially involves the development of a “shared set of tools to improve situation awareness to reduce runway excursions.”

New pilot procedures and the making of a new training video on landing performance will occur in the first stages of the venture. The initiative also includes development of new technology and systems for the flight deck.

Mauro Kern, executive VP for engineering and technology at Embraer, says the runway excursion safety initiative is a “very important development within the context of the broader agreement” and is a “perfect project for the two teams to collaborate on.” The manufacturers are “working on finalizing the procedures that will be improved in each company’s flight manuals,” he adds.

Revealing Studies

The revised procedures and training video will be distributed in 2013, with the first of the modified manuals being issued for some of the Boeing and Embraer models “within the next six months” says Townsend.

As part of the initiative to change procedures, Boeing conducted studies of events to “try and understand” the background to the runway excursion problem, says Townsend.

Embraer conducted parallel studies and found “comparable” results, she adds. The procedure changes will ensure pilots repeat the same landing calculations made prior to departure, while preparing to land. This will help raise awareness of what to expect with the landing and will “have them re-engaged as they are ready to land,” says Townsend.

The analysis also highlighted different causal factors that were involved in overruns. “Even when pilots landed long they still had adequate stopping devices had they used them,” Townsend says.

Notable accidents over recent years, several of them involving Boeing 737s, have been incidents in which crews landed long after an unstabilized approach, or went off the end of the runway in rain. The most deadly of these was the May 2010 overrun accident involving an Air India Express 737-800, which overshot the runway at Mangalore, India, killing 158 people. The most recent non-fatal incident involved an All Nippon Airways 737-800 which overran the runway at Shonai, Japan in icy weather on Dec. 8.

The new procedures will “make sure there’s a call out for speed brakes, which cut lift and put more weight on the wheels and brakes,” Townsend says. In addition, the revised manuals will remind crews that thrust reversers can continue to be used at lower speeds than the 60 kt. cut-off normally recommended to prevent foreign object damage to the engines. “Safety is the top priority,” she adds.

Larger Effort

The longer-term plan for upgraded situational awareness systems is “part of a larger collaborative effort,” says Townsend. Several tools will be packaged, including some existing features such as Honeywell’s runway alert and advisory system (RAAS) or SmartRunway. This is available as a software upgrade to enhanced ground proximity warning systems or Honeywell’s Primus Epic system, and provides positional advisories and alerts to the crew during taxi, take-off, final approach, landing and roll out.

SmartRunway is available in production 737, 747-8s and 777s, and also is available as a retrofit on some models. Airbus A320, A330 and A340s, and Embraer’s Legacy (a version of the ERJ-145) are amongst other models certificated to operate with the SmartRunway system, while the RAAS-compatible Epic is standard to Embraer’s 170/190 family.

The new Boeing-Embraer effort “is inclusive of this, but goes beyond it and includes features that would give greater situational awareness such as a head-up-display with a runway depiction with stopping distance and projected markers on the runway to give some perspective,” Townsend says. “The visual cues would also be down on the primary flight display.”

Although the technology plan is defined, Boeing and Embraer are still working on the exact roadmap for implementing it model-by-model.