Prize for the best MSc thesis 2018-2019 for the Civil Engineering and Management program was awarded to Henk Koopmans, student in the Master-track on Transport. Unfortunately, due to a typo in the invitation-text Henk himself did only appear through Whatsapp at the ceremony at November 1st, where his supervisor prof Eric van Berkum gave a presentation about his work. Henk’s thesis is about the relationship between runway incursions and geometrical characteristics of airports.
On March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 passenger jets, KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736, collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport), on the Spanish island of Tenerife, Canary Islands, killing 583 people, and making it the deadliest accident in aviation history. In fog, a landing aircraft was assumed to have left the runway but hadn't. An aircraft on a take-off run collided with it. This was an extreme case of a so-called runway incursion which is an incident where an unauthorized aircraft, vehicle or person is on a runway.
Runway incursions are considered as one of the most critical incident types in aviation, as the consequences can be catastrophic, leading to large damage and deadly injuries. Worldwide, approximately 30% of the aviation accidents of commercial aircraft are runway-related. Within the boundaries of an airport, incursions are one of the top priority safety issues; In the US on average each day three incursions occur.
Air traffic is growing, existing airports are expanded, and new airports are built. For this it is necessary to reduce the probability of runway incursions as much as possible. Henk focused on the importance of geometric characteristics of airports. He wanted to get a better understanding of the relation between the geometry of an airport and occurrence of runway incursions.
Based on the proven potential for statistical analysis in this field and the difficulty to achieve additional relevant findings from a qualitative approach Henk conducted a very extensive data analysis and developed a frequency model for runway incursions. Henk used data from 420 US airports, since the US provides the largest publicly available collection of incident data for a large variety of airport characteristics. Also, the busiest airports in terms of aircraft movements are in that country and the data is audited and assumed to be representative.
Henk developed a solid theoretical framework, excelled in data collection and preparation, did a very thorough analysis, and then developed a model that clearly outperformed any existing model. Further, for validation purposes, Henk set up a panel of senior experts, consisting of airport users that represent each of the incursion type inducers.
Henk’s research yields a series of recommendations for airport expansion and/or planning, and also a number of issues that better can be avoided when designing an airport. His work will have significant impact in both the scientific and airport community. Supervisors were dr. Tom Thomas and prof. dr. ir. Eric van Berkum.