Safety: Same signs, new perspectives

If you ever experienced driving in a foreign country, you know how challenging it can be to understand the meaning of road signs that don’t bear any resemblance to what we see in the States.

Fortunately, pilots aren’t faced with the same dilemma when flying from one airport to another. Most airports in the U.S. (and in many foreign countries) use the same signs and markings, which means we shouldn’t have problems understanding their meaning and complying. Unfortunately the data on runway incursions tell a different story. In fact, general aviation pilots cause about 80 percent of runway incursions each year—the majority caused by inadequate preparation, distraction, lack of situational awareness, and poor communication. Even though runway incursion accidents are low-probability, high-consequence events, it’s easy to get complacent.  

Memorizing the names of runway signs, markings, and lighting isn’t enough to ensure our safety while operating at airports, but seeing them in context can help. The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s new digital Runway Safety Flash Cards offer real-world perspectives by accurately illustrating (and in some cases animating) the plethora of runway signs, markings, and lighting. Did you know that not all red signs mean stop? Do you know what a row of pulsing white lights across a runway means? Can all displaced thresholds be used for takeoff? Each high-resolution illustration includes an explanation to these questions and more to associate the images with their directives and a reference to the FAA regulations that govern them.

Flying club members can test their runway safety knowledge by downloading the flashcards to their mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. Looking for a printable version? No problem, just click on the “Save PDF” button in the top tool bar or use the printer-friendly link on the last page and stick them in your flight bag.

To learn more about safe airport operations, check out ASI’s Safety Spotlight on Runway Safety.

Safe pilots are always learning, and the Air Safety Institute’s goal is to ensure pilots have a wealth of information to keep flying safely. Our educational programs are funded through donations from pilots dedicated to forwarding that mission. Show your support by donating to the AOPA Foundation today.

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