top of page

About the Aviation Safety Monitor

The Aviation Safety Monitor is a service provided by Robust Analytics to deliver timely information on terminal area safety in the National Airspace System (NAS). The safety monitoring and prediction technologies were developed by Robust Analytics over the past several years. Partial funding was provided by the NASA Small Business Innovation Research Program and the NASA System Wide Safety Project.


The Aviation Safety Monitor provides quantitative estimates of safety margins at 26 airports in 17 metropolitan regions in the United States. This information complements data on several safety-related events that are published elsewhere, with the FAA’s Runway Incursion Statistics website a good example. However, the available safety information can be misleading if it only reports the frequency of violations with no insight into how safety buffers may vary minute-to-minute and day-to-day. The Aviation Safety Monitor aims to provide this insight every week.


How Do We Measure Safety Margins? 



The Aviation Safety Monitor summarizes output from Risk Tracker, the Robust Analytics in-time terminal airspace hazard and safety metrics monitoring system. 

Safety margins at the 26 monitored airports remained at good levels during the past week. The length of the average encroachment duration continued to decrease, continuing a trend for the past three months. The seasonal pattern of good safety margins during the spring and summer also continues. The slight increase in the more severe Category A and B separation conformance deviations since early May deserves close monitoring over the coming weeks.

Welcome back to the Weekly Aviation Safety Report. Every Monday Robust Analytics reports on safety margins at 26 United States airports. With this Aviation Safety Monitor Weekly Report, Robust Analytics offers the aviation community timely assessments of changing safety margins and safety-related events. Dates and times are tracked in UTC and the week ends at midnight every Saturday. This week’s report includes data through 2400 UTC on June 15, 2024.


For New Readers: Please read our article “Did Safety Degrade in the National Airspace System in the Winter of 2022-2023?” that applies our methods and data  to examine whether safety margins decreased during the events of winter 2022-2023.  

The Aviation Safety Monitor measures safety margins by estimating the frequency, duration, and severity of buffer encroachments. Our paper “How Do We Measure Safety Margins?” provides a detailed description of the methods and data. That article can be found here  on the Robust Analytics website. 

Weekly Safety Margin Update. Safety margins improved slightly over the past week, continuing the high safety margins that we typically observe during the summer months. Total encroachment durations for the week ending June 15 dropped 10.7 percent from the previous week. The number of encroachment events also decreased, falling by 6.7 percent and reversing the small increases of the previous two weeks. Average encroachment durations for the first two weeks of June are 3.5 percent below the May average. The months long trend in low duration per event continued, with as the weekly encroachment duration per event dropped 17.2 seconds, well below the long term average duration per encroachment of 26.3 seconds. Figure 1 displays weekly summary metrics for the 26 monitored airports. 




Figure 1. Weekly Trends in Encroachment Events and Durations

Let’s now take a closer look at safety margins for the seven days ending June 15. Figure 2 displays estimates of encroachment durations per aircraft for each hour over the previous seven days. This offers a detailed look at how safety margins vary over the operating day. Figure 2 also indicates the historical range of the data by showing the 25th, 75th, and 90th percentile values of the duration per aircraft metric. The percentiles were estimated using data from May 2022 through February 2024.


Figure 2 displays the typical time of day pattern that we observe in the data, as encroachment events are highly correlated with traffic density. Even after aggregating the data over 17 metroplexes operating in three time zones the time of day pattern remains prominent. We also observe a frequently-repeated pattern of daily peaks increasing early in the week and then declining. The rest of the week was quiet with all other values within the normal range. The week ending June 15 was quiet, with only two one-hour periods reporting encroachment durations above the 75th percentile.

















Figure 2. Hourly Encroachment Duration Per Aircraft for the Week Ending June 15, 2024

Figure 3 shows duration per aircraft for the four weeks from May 19 through June 15, 2024. With the updated percentile estimates we can observe more periods with encroachment durations above the 90th percentile, although the number remains a low fraction of all observations. The past week exhibits the lowest encroachment duration since we started the Weekly Report with the week ending February 24. 

















Figure 3. Hourly Encroachment Duration Per Aircraft for May 19 to June 15, 2024

Trends are easier to detect visually with the moving average plots shown in Figure 4. The chart reinforces the observation about Figure 3 that safety margins over the past month are much better than the historical average. This reflects a seasonal pattern in which safety margins are highest during the spring and summer months.
















Figure 4. Moving Average Hourly Encroachment Duration Per Aircraft, May 19 to June 15, 2024

Figure 5 shows a longer perspective with three months of data back to March 17, 2024. This chart clearly shows the reduced safety margins for several days in early March that we reported in our initial posting on April 8, 2024. That early March period had the highest durations and the longest extended period with high durations in the past two months, with metrics well above the 90th percentile for many hours.


















Figure 5. Hourly Encroachment Duration Per Aircraft, March 17, 2024 to June 15, 2024

Figure 6 displays the moving average version for the past three months, which highlights the early March increase in encroachment durations that persisted for ten days. This is the only sustained period of high encroachments that lasted more than a couple of days for the past three months. April and May encroachment metrics are both much lower than March and below the long run average. 















Figure 6. 24-Hour Moving Average Encroachment Duration Per Aircraft for the Three Months Ending June 15, 2024 

We wrap-up this week’s report with updates to the two charts presented in the previous weekly reports. Figure 7 shows the total daily counts of the number of encroachments and their durations across the 26 airports in the 17 metropolitan areas that we monitor. The blue bars report estimates of total daily encroachment durations divided by the number of aircraft in the terminal airspace (approximately 50 miles of the airport center) for all 17 terminal airspaces. The red line reports the daily number of encroachment events per 100 aircraft. 



Figure 7. Encroachment Duration Per Aircraft and Event Rates for 26 Airports 

February 18, 2024 through June 15, 2024

As data are added to the chart each week, readers can begin to detect some mild day-of-week variation and, more importantly, periods of a few days and even a week or longer in which encroachment durations increase significantly. In the coming weeks, we will examine these fluctuations in more detail.


How severe are these encroachments? The FAA defines three separation conformance categories based on how far they are from the separation index. (See the description “How Do We Measure Safety Margins?” for details on the conformance categories and how we measure them.) In that classification system, Conformance Categories A and B are the most severe. Under our definition of a buffer encroachment, Category A and B encroachments are counted under all meteorological conditions.

Figure 8 displays information on the most severe separation conformance categories. The daily durations and event counts for the sum of Category A and B encroachments are shown in Figure 7. The pattern differs from the Figure 1, as there is no strong trend during the time period. However, the slight upward drift since the start of May continued over the past week. This suggests that Category PE and C encroachments are affected by different factors from Category A and B. We will take a deep dive into those differences in a future weekly report.





Figure 8. Encroachment Durations and Event Counts for Conformance Categories A and B February 18, 2024 through June 15, 2024

Overall, at the NAS level safety margins have been stable for the past several weeks. The industry shows evidence of recovering from the stress of September 2022 to February 2023. We will take a deeper dive into that time period and the subsequent partial recovery in future reports.

Aviation Safety Monitor Weekly Report for the Week Ending June 15, 2024

bottom of page