FAA tackles runway risks

No silver bullet exists that will stop aircraft from crossing boundaries

on the runways of the nation's airports and potentially leading to disastrous

collisions, a panel of aviation experts said Tuesday.

But a combination of new technologies, common sense and improved training

will help prevent runway incursions in the future, according to members

of the technology panel at the Federal Aviation Administration's Runway

Safety National Summit in Washington, D.C.

Runway incursions — which occur when aircraft cross paths and create the

risk of collision — continue to increase as air transportation grows.

The FAA is working on enhancements to technologies that track and identify

aircraft and other vehicles as they move across airport surfaces. Among

them is Airport Surface Detection Equipment, a radar system designed to

detect moving objects on runways. The FAA also has been trying to implement

Airport Movement Areas Safety System software, an enhancement to the radar

that adds identification tags and limited alarm capabilities.

AMASS is several years behind schedule because of software bugs and problems

controllers are having with the frequency of alarms. In the future, FAA

hopes to use Global Positioning System satellite navigation technology to

create moving map displays, which are under development at NASA's Langley

Research Center.

"These technologies are accident-prevention technologies," said Steve Zaidman,

FAA associate administrator for research and development. But they don't

prevent the incursion, he said. The technologies alert the air traffic controller

to a potential collision, giving them about 20 seconds to react to the situation,

he said.

Stephen Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association, highlighted

a system that puts pilots in the loop: Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast.

ADS-B collects GPS position data, broadcasts it and displays it on screens

in control towers and aircraft. UPS Aviation Technologies intends to equip

its fleet of 230 large aircraft with ADS-B by December 2002, he said.

However, many solutions that will increase situational awareness for pilots

and controllers are fairly low-tech, Zaidman said.

The aviation community needs to look seriously at low-tech solutions because

69 percent of surface deviations are caused by general aviation aircraft

and not commercial carriers, said Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft

Owners and Pilots Association.

Simple solutions, such as installing fences and "looking out the window,"

may be the most effective, said Bill Blackmer, director of safety and technology

for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Low-tech solutions also include education and training that will improve

the awareness of air traffic controllers, pilots and operations vehicle

drivers.

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