FAA Bulletin Clarifies Runway Status Light Procedures

Oct 30, 2017 - 3:30 PM

The FAA has issued Safety Alert for Pilots (SAFO) 17011 to ensure that pilots and airport personnel are aware of the correct procedures concerning runway status lights (RWSLs), a fully automated system intended to prevent runway collisions. It cited several instances in which pilots have ignored the illuminated red in-pavement lights when issued a clearance to cross or take off from that runway.

Installed at nearly 20 of the nation’s busiest airports, RWSLs integrate airport lighting equipment with approach and surface surveillance radar systems to provide aircraft crews and vehicle drivers a visual signal indicating when it is unsafe to enter or cross a runway and begin or continue a takeoff. Illuminated RWSLs mean that aircraft or vehicles must stop or remain stopped and their operators should contact ATC for further direction. The RWSL system operates independently of ATC and “controllers do not have any indication of when the…lights are illuminated.”

According to the pilot reference guide for RWSLs, whenever a pilot observes the red lights of the runway entrance lights, that pilot should stop at the hold line or along the taxiway path and remain stopped. The pilot should then contact ATC for resolution if the clearance is in conflict with the lights. Under no circumstances should pilots proceed without both an ATC clearance and visual confirmation that runway status lights are not illuminated.