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Old Posted Jul 14, 2008, 6:38 PM
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Ottawa eyes runway extensions
Transport Canada explores new safety measures for major airports

Jack Branswell and Phil Couvrette, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, July 14, 2008

OTTAWA -- More than three years after a fiery Air France crash at Toronto airport, Transport Canada is still trying to decide whether to require runway extensions at Toronto, Vancouver and other major airports that do not already have them.

Aircraft going off the end of runways is one of the most frequent accidents involving airliners, with at least 10 such incidents in bad weather worldwide since the Air France crash.

Yet the Transportation Safety Board's final report on the Air France crash watered down how the lack of a runway extension contributed to passenger injuries and damage to the plane, according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service.

Transport Canada is considering requiring 300-metre Runway End Safe Areas as a safety measure, which was a key recommendation of the TSB's report into the Air France crash.

Vancouver doesn't have RESAs because they aren't required by Transport Canada, said Brett Patterson, a spokesman for the Vancouver Airport Authority.

An early version of the TSB's Air France report noted if Runway 24L at Pearson Airport had a safety area at the end of it "the damage to the aircraft and injuries to the passengers would certainly have been reduced."

When the report was published that section was changed to read: "the damage to the aircraft and injuries to the passengers may have been reduced."

The Air France plane travelled about 300 metres off the runway before stopping -- but not before it went through ditches, fences and into a steep ravine and that the injuries and the plane damage "was incurred due to these."

All 309 passengers and crew survived but 33 people were taken to hospital, including 12 who were treated for serious injuries.

In a memorandum dated a little more than a month after the TSB delivered its recommendations on the crash landing, the Standards Branch of Transport Canada noted that "current airport certification standards are under review with the participation of industry experts."

That position hasn't changed from January of this year, when the latest memo was written.

A spokesman said Transport Canada is reviewing studies from ICAO and the U.S. on runway design standards and RESAs "and this review has resulted in a recommendation to amend the Canadian regulations and standards," but the department will consult with the aviation industry before finalizing changes.

Toronto's airport authority, facing a lawsuit over the Air France crash, would not comment.

Montreal recently refurbished its airport and runways and it brought them up to the most recent standards of International Civil Aviation Organization, including adding RESAs.

RESAs don't necessarily have to be paved or cemented runways. For example, Edmonton has fields that would stop a plane. Some U.S airports -- RESAs are required at major airports -- use a material that crushes under the plane's weight and slows momentum. Typically, that material is a wall of concrete puffed so full of air that it has a consistency similar of styrofoam.


© The Vancouver Sun 2008
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