Surface conditions, lack of updates led to runway overrun at Kingston airport

Photo of the aircraft which came to rest 400 feet past the end of the runway at the Norman Rogers/YGK airport, taken the morning after the overrun. Photo via TSB.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has concluded its investigation into a 2021 flight that saw the plane overrun the length of the runway at Kingston’s Norman Rogers/YGK airport (CYGK).

On November 30, 2021, an Embraer EMB-505 aircraft operated by I.M.P. Group Limited was unable to decelerate after the usual approach and touchdown on one of the local airport’s runways. While no injuries or damages were sustained, the TSB investigated this occurrence “for the purpose of advancing transportation safety.”

Around 5 p.m. that day, the two pilots prepared to take off from the Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (CYUL), and fly the approximate 35 minutes to the Kingston airport. According to the TSB, both pilots were familiar with the route and the flight was uneventful. However, upon touchdown, the usual braking procedure failed to slow the aircraft, and the application of both the secondary braking system, as well as the emergency brake, did not change or improve the deceleration of the aircraft.

As a result, the plane left the end of the runway and travelled approximately 400 feet before coming to a stop, entering the grassed area beyond the runway but remaining within the runway-end safety area (RESA) throughout the overrun.

The TSB investigation found that both pilots held the appropriate licence and met the recency requirements for the flight, and it was the first flight of the day for both of them. The aircraft was also found to be in good working order, and there was no indication that a system malfunction had contributed to the runway overrun.

The weather that evening was reported as light rain and snow, mist, and an overcast ceiling. The information from the weather observation taken at 6 p.m., as well as the contents of the runway surface condition report was received by the pilots through the automatic terminal information service broadcast as they prepared for the approach, according to the report.

“A runway surface condition NOTAM (RSC NOTAM) includes a runway condition code, which describes conditions for three equal portions of the entire paved surface of the runway (not at the runway threshold),” the TSB explained. “At 1726, the following RSC NOTAM was reported for Runway 19 at CYGK, indicating good braking action consistent with operations on a wet runway:

  • RWYCC RWY 19: 5/5/5
    • First portion – 100% wet
    • Second portion – 30% wet snow 1/8 inch depth
    • Third portion – 40% wet snow 1/8 inch depth”

According to the TSB report, “there had been no arrivals, departures, or maintenance activity on the runway between the issue of the runway condition report at 1726 and the arrival of the occurrence aircraft at 1829”, and no requests for updated runway conditions were made.

“During operating hours, CYGK staff are required to inspect all movement areas on the airport at intervals not to exceed four hours, monitoring for changes to runway conditions as well as for wildlife activity,” the TSB report reads. “During winter, a continuous watch is kept on the runway surfaces. Maintenance such as plowing, sweeping, and chemical treatment of the runways is planned to accommodate regularly scheduled arrivals and departures and other known traffic.”

The TSB noted that at the time of the occurrence, the Canada Flight Supplement entry for CYGK indicated that winter maintenance was available within limited hours during weekdays and that maintenance outside of these hours was available with three hours of prior notice.

Although there had been continuous snowfall after the RSC NOTAM was issued at 5:26 p.m., and some snow accumulation was evident on the apron area of the airport, the runways continued to appear bare and wet, and the conditions were not deemed to have significantly changed, according to the report.

According to the TSB, the local airport was not aware this flight was incoming. “The final aircraft movement of the day was scheduled to depart at 2000 [8 p.m.] on the evening of the occurrence; this was the only aircraft movement that the airport staff member on duty was aware of [on November 30, 2021] until he witnessed the occurrence flight, beginning when the aircraft was on short final. During this time, he was preparing snow-clearing equipment at the base of the FSS tower in preparation for snow clearing on Runway 01/19 in advance of the scheduled 2000 departure. Plowing and sweeping the full width of Runway 01/19 takes a single staff member approximately one hour.”

The flight crew and an airport maintenance worker reportedly inspected the runway about 30 minutes after the overrun occurrence and noted it was slippery.

The TSB said that airport staff monitor a publicly available aircraft tracking website to maintain awareness of incoming and unscheduled IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) traffic, but this flight data for the occurrence aircraft had been blocked by the operator, which is why the airport employee was unaware that the occurrence aircraft would be arriving at approximately 6:30 p.m. “It is not uncommon for a private or business aircraft operator to block its flight activity on such websites in the interest of privacy,” the TSB said.

As the TSB found no indication that a mechanical or system fault contributed to the runway overrun, and there was no evidence that operational deviations or pilot actions during the approach or landing roll affected the outcome, the report analysis focused on the information available to the flight crew regarding the runway condition, the information available to the airport maintenance staff regarding the incoming flight, and the actual runway surface condition at the time of the overrun.

Findings from the TSB report:

  • Based on the information the pilots received about the runway conditions 63 minutes before landing, “they determined that a safe landing was possible.”
  • “If airport operator employees, who are responsible for maintenance of the runway surfaces, are not notified in advance of non-scheduled arrivals and departures, they will be unable to plan airport maintenance tasks, such as snow clearing, to prepare for these movements, increasing the risk of an occurrence, such as a runway lateral excursion or overrun.”
  • Between the most current report of runway conditions and the actual touchdown, “some of the moisture on the runway surface had frozen, resulting in an icy surface with limited friction available for braking. While the aircraft touched down at the planned speed within the touchdown zone and the brakes were applied immediately, the decreased braking effectiveness resulted in the runway overrun.”

According to the report, the aircraft operator, I.M.P. Group Limited, has updated procedures to include the task of notifying the airport operator of planned arrivals when environmental conditions may be affecting the runway condition, and to require pilots to request updated runway condition reports if conditions warrant.

Read the full report here.

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