Runway Excursion

Runway Excursion


A veer off or overrun off the runway surface. (ICAO)


A runway excursion occurs when an aircraft departs the runway in use during the take-off or landing run. The excursion may be intentional or unintentional.

Types of Runway Excursion

  • A departing aircraft fails to become airborne or successfully reject the take off before reaching the end of the designated runway.
  • A landing aircraft is unable to stop before the end of the designated runway is reached.
  • An aircraft taking off, rejecting take off or landing departs the side of the designated runway.


  • Death or injury to persons on board the aircraft
  • Damage to the aircraft
  • Death or injury to persons not on the aircraft
  • Damage to airfield or off-airfield installations
  • Damage to other aircraft or to vehicles
  • Delay consequent upon runway obstruction due to the excursion


  • Never making the decision to reject a take off after V1 unless it is impossible to rotate or it is certain that the safety of the aircraft would be endangered if it became airborne.
  • Correct calculation of maximum operating weight, field length required and relevant critical speeds etc. based on accurately reported ambient conditions and subsequent correct input into aircraft flight systems should preclude a runway excursion under all normal and most abnormal conditions (e.g. power unit failure).
  • In the case of a minor runway excursion, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regulations specifying minimum cleared areas adjacent to and at either end of runways should ensure that damage to an aircraft leaving the paved surface of a runway is not severe.
  • Flying a Stabilised Approach which then leads to the landing runway threshold being crossed at the target speed and height

Typical Scenarios

  • An aircraft departs from or lands on a runway other than that designated or a taxiway either of which may be obstructed and/or shorter and/or narrower than the intended runway. In exceptional cases, the landing case may involve the use of the wrong airport.
  • A departing aircraft fails to get airborne before end of the runway due to:
    • Inappropriate aircraft handling technique; or,
    • Decision to reject a take off taken at a speed exceeding V1; or,
    • Aircraft weight exceeds maximum for prevailing conditions; or,
    • Reported runway conditions differing from actual conditions; or,
    • Aircraft weight and/or trim used for setting thrust/power or pitch trim position is wrong; or,
    • Aircraft system malfunction (e.g. nose wheel steering or engine malfunction).
  • A landing aircraft is unable to stop before end of runway due to:
    • Touch-down speed is excessive; or,
    • Threshold crossing height is too high and/or the touchdown point is beyond the normal touch down zone; or,
    • Aircraft weight exceeds maximum for prevailing conditions; or,
    • Reported wind velocity or runway surface conditions differ from actual conditions; or,
    • Aircraft system on which landing performance is predicated such as brakes or spoilers malfunctions; or,
    • significant Aquaplaning occurs
  • An aircraft landing or taking off departs the side of the runway due to:
    • Inappropriate aircraft handling technique; or,
    • Wind Velocity exceeds the maximum specified AFM limitations for crosswind component or the maximum demonstrated POH cross-wind ; or,
    • Aircraft malfunction (e.g. engine failure or low power, asymmetric brake or spoiler failure, nose-wheel steering failure); or,
    • Loss of directional control due to the effects of Aquaplaning.

Contributory Factors

  • Wind velocity headwind or crosswind components exceptionally variable and/or in the vicinity permitted aircraft maxima.
  • Poor and fluctuating forward visibility.
  • Runway contaminated by water, ice, snow or slush, whether or not this status correctly advised in advance


  • Accurate and timely reporting of ambient conditions by ATC, especially wind strength, direction and variation, runway surface state and braking action.
  • Correct calculation of limiting aircraft weight, speeds etc.
  • Strict observance of handling techniques specified in the Aeroplane Flight Manual and/or Operations Manual.
  • Effective decision making and technique for rejecting a landing soon after initial touchdown (where permitted for an aircraft type) or for rejecting a take off from a speed close to or of V1.

Accident and Incident Reports

Further Reading

Federal Aviation Administration

Flight Safety Foundation

HindSight Articles


Flight Data Services Case Studies

Netherlands National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR)

See also FAA "Lessons Learned from Transport Airplane Accidents": Landing / Takeoff Excursions


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