FAA tackles runway risks
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Jun 28, 2000
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
"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,
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