Safety Risk Assessment, regardless of the methodology used, could be divided in three different activities; Risk Identification, Risk Analysis and Risk Evaluation.

Risk Identification is about finding answers to the question of WHAT might possibly go wrong.

In this blog I will try to explain the risk identification process using framework we have established for the risk assessment of operations to the new destinations (flights to the airports we haven’t flown before).

As there is no Risk without related Hazard, we have first created a list of all generic hazards that might be present at the airport. After that, for each hazard we have identified all associated risks (actually all credible scenarios describing conditions and consequences of how hazard could be released).

For the purpose of this blog, only a limited number of the most important airport hazards and associated risks/consequences are listed below.



We usually expect that this has been checked already on management level where decisions about new destinations are taken. However, you would be surprised how people focused only on revenue and profit easily overlook it, sometimes even intentionally. Would you sleep well if your family or friends are flying there, would be a useful question to ask them. Just to make sure, I advise you to check geopolitical situation on the new destination and on a related route by yourself.

Aircraft damaged or destroyed by arms
A lot of military weapons might significantly damage an aircraft during landing, take-off or when on ground. Unfortunately based on recent experience (remember Malaysian MH370 and Ukrainian PS752), even possible deliberate or accidental aircraft shooting down with ground-to-air missiles (dangerous even in cruise) or with Man-portable air-defense systems (dangerous only in lower flight phases approach and climb), shall not be overlooked. Remember, in SMS higher insurance does not qualify as acceptable safety risk mitigation measure.

Explosive device on board and Aircraft sabotage
If aircraft would stay on ground for a longer period, especially over the night, the possibility of inserting explosive devices on board and aircraft sabotage are two main risks that have to be considered.

Crew kidnapping/terrorist acts/criminal acts
In case when crew will disembark the aeroplane, additional risk regarding crew security have to be identified like kidnapping / terroristic acts / criminal acts on the airport public side, in the hotel, on the way between hotel and airport, etc.


Runway excursion (landing/take off)
Regarding airport design, runway is the first thing to think about. Standard questions to be asked are: Is runway long enough for landing and take-off in all conditions (incl. wet and contaminated runway)? In case of runway excursion, terrain around the runway (e.g. flat grassy all around or rocky abyss at the end or side of the runway) would have a major influence on excursion severity, aircraft damage and fatal casualties, therefore do not forget to ask also “abnormal” questions.

Runway incursion - Incorrect presence (landing/take off)
Unappropriated taxiways design (Entry, Crossing and Exit points), complicated naming convention and poor aerodrome infrastructure (signs, marking, lighting) significantly contribute to ground navigation errors which may cause runway incursion, wrong runway selection or mistakenly used taxiways.

Runway incursion - Incorrect presence (vehicles/people)
Is there any warning system installed at the airport such as A-SMGCS that can provide routing, guidance and surveillance of aircraft and vehicle movement to improve situation awareness?

FOD, Wildlife and De/anti-icing
FOD, Wildlife and De/anti-icing are only few of many risks that could be identified regarding aerodrome operations.
Consider all available information/indication of low airport FOD prevention standard, number of bird strikes, unavailability of de/anti-icing equipment.

All above identified risk might become a contributing factor in very unlikely, but in combination with severe weather, time pressure, aircraft status and too go-minded pilots, possible dramatic scenario with tragic end.


Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT)
Surrounding Terrain is a very important hazard in approach or climb phase of flight, resulting in Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) as main risk. Standard question to be asked is: How much safety margins will be reduced during night arrival/departure or in different weather conditions? Good visibility (e.g. in Lugano) or some airport related systems (e.g. ILS, ATC radar) might be required in less than ideal weather conditions ?

Also, some “weird” questions shall be asked as well, e.g. for airports surrounded with high mountains (e.g. Sarajevo), how would engine failure during climb look like in details, not forgetting it might happen in very different weather conditions.


Mid-air collision
There might be some specifics about airspace around the airport that have to be addressed as well: e.g. a lot of VFR traffic due to sports activities in vicinity (e.g. gliders, paragliders) or high speed low level military flights, which may be overlooked by ATC and not identified by TCAS.


Weather is a general category, therefore pilots know how to deal with thunderstorms, heavy rain, different wind directions (tailwind, crosswind), gusty wind, windshear etc. However, severe local weather conditions, like possibly strong and unpredictable gusty wind, with strong crosswind and downwind components, occasionally creating rotors (e.g. Bora in Dubrovnik), shall be clearly identified, as they may result in sudden loss of altitude in final approach or hiting runway with wingtip during landing.
Birstrike, especially if the airport is located close to sea or lake, is one of the risks you should think about. How Wildlife management is organized on the airport? Is there any statistics available about the birdstikes? Shall an additional mitigation measure be required from the airport?


This generic list of airport hazards and related risks we are using as a standard checklist to identify existing risks for each new destination. If the result of analysis shows us that one of the generic risk exits for a new destination airport, the real risk is inserted into a database for further risk assessment. All real risks are stored in the database with the unique ID and explicit unambiguous name (e.g. Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Lugano).

At the end of risk identification process for “new destination”, all applicable risks are linked and listed in our Hazard Log ready to be analyzed and classified in the next steps of risk assessment.

Andrej Petelin

Aviation Safety and Compliance Consultant
January, 2020