Based on findings from the Transportation Safety Board, Toronto's Pearson Airport is a serious risk for plane crashes and it's all because of its poor design. Specifically, the runway set-up at the city's largest airport makes it more prone to planes colliding or even landing on top of one another. 

The way Pearson is designed with some runways side by side as well as some that are adjoining. While the runways are marked with signs, lights, and paintings on the tarmac, this still posed an issue. The safety board found that aircraft were still finding their way onto the wrong runways after landing. For example, a plane could mistakenly turn onto another active runway instead of a taxiway when trying to come into the terminal. 

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When this happens, it's called an incursion and according to the safety board, there were several of these at Pearson recently. In fact, in the past five years, there have been 27 incursions at Pearson. In all the cases, the board found that the flight crew was aware they needed to stop before they got onto the next runway, but often it was too late. 

Fortunately, in all 27 of these cases, no accidents occurred but these incursions have the potential to cause serious and deadly crashes.

For instance, if a taxiing plane accidentally ends up on a runway where a plane is landing, the incoming plane will smash into the one already on the ground, leading to hundreds of casualties. 

The same could happen if a plane was preparing to take off and getting up to high speeds when they collide with another plane that's not supposed to be there. In both these situations, it is pretty much impossible for the planes to stop in time. That means unless Pearson makes some changes, these crashes could be inevitable. 

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Fortunately, the Transportation Safety Board has made a few recommendations to the airport about how to fix this situation and prevent more incursions from happening. 

They recommend that: 

  • Air traffic controllers have to give even more clear instructions to flight crews as they are coming into the airport
  • Changes to procedures make it so flight-crews don't begin post-flight checks until they have completely cleared any active airspace
  • Changes are made to Pearson's unique runway and taxiway layout 

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On top of these findings, for whatever reason, the safety board discovered that the majority of these incursions occurred with US regional airlines. That being said, unless the airport layout is changed, these near-misses could happen to anybody.