The crash landing of an Air France wide-body jet at Toronto nine days ago brought to the fore some widespread differences between U.S. and Canadian airport safety practices, ranging from methods of runway construction to Canada's decision years ago not to install even rudimentary detectors to spot sudden dangerous wind shiftsexplains Don Phillips in the International Herald Tribune.
…weeks of calculation lie ahead to determine how it might have affected Air France Flight 358, which ran off the end of a runway into a ravine and caught fire. There are no records easily available for review, partly because Canadian airports do not have doppler radar installations that are common now at U.S. airports, and even at most television stations. That also means air traffic controllers had no way to warn the crew of the threat of a severe wind shift, even at Toronto, which is the largest airport in Canada and which sits on a normal path of summer thunderstorms.
… While the Transportation Safety Board of Canada will take months to determine a probable cause, the debate in Canada - and between it and its neighbor to the south - has picked up momentum. Slowly, there has been an increase in open criticism of Canadian standards by various groups, including the U.S. controllers' union, the Canadian pilots' union and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
John Carr, head of the National Air Traffic Control Association in Washington, said he was "kind of surprised" that Canada did not have wind shear protection equipment that is "not even considered cutting-edge any more."
… "They just didn't do anything about it," said [an] engineer, who asked not to be named because he may work in Canada again. "I guess the political will was not there."
… The crash also highlighted a difference of opinion between the United States and Canada over whether thousands of small grooves should be dug across runways to improve braking power. The policy in Canada is not to cut grooves because they provide no extra braking power in winter, and they require snow plows to use Teflon blades to avoid tearing up the grooved runways. That makes snow removal expensive and slow. The United States, however, has been pressing world government bodies to require grooving because it makes braking power much better in summer rainstorms. The issue is before the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.
Rick Marinell, manager of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Airports, said that U.S. airports in northern snowy climates such as Buffalo were grooved, "and we have no problems."
"We'd obviously like ICAO to adopt our greater standard," Marinell said.
That includes runway overrun standards - the area and length of the ground at the end of a runway that can support an aircraft that does not stop in time. Although not all U.S. airports yet meet the standard, the United States requires a greater flat overrun area than most other countries, including Canada.
This is also a big issue with the Canadian pilots' union. Robert Perkins of Welland, Ontario, the Canadian board president for the Air Line Pilots Association, said he had been attempting for almost 30 years to persuade Canada to extend runway run-over areas.
In the United States, many airports are going beyond overrun areas to install a system called EMAS, for Engineered Material Arresting System, at the ends of runways. This material, which effectively stops an airplane as if it had run into deep sand, has already prevented passenger injuries and aircraft damage, according to Joe Del Balzo, a former Federal Aviation official now president of JDA Aviation Technologies. …