Close calls at Pearson Airport blamed on poor design and distracted pilots

Canada’s busiest airport, Pearson International, sees more than 400 000 flights a year. While the action on the tarmac looks like a well-oiled operation to the untrained eye, experts are raising the alarm of a potential safety hazard.

The transportation safety board says that in the past five years at Pearson airport, there were 27 instances when planes or other vehicles were in a live runway when they shouldn’t have been.

During peak hours, planes take off and depart from Pearson’s two southern runways. They’re connected by rapid taxi lines and it’s at those intersections where the problems occur.

Veteran pilot David Rohrer says 27 is a very concerning number.

“That’s high, that’s over five a year and one airport at a busy airport with a lot of commercial flights, the risks are extremely high for loss of property.”

The TSB is recommending full-scale changes to how air traffic control talks to pilots and post landing protocols. Those can be implemented now, but long-term changes include a physical re-do of Pearson’s runways.