FAA tackles runway hazards
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Jul 03, 2000
No silver bullet exists that will stop aircraft from crossing boundaries
on the runways of the nation's airports and potentially causing disastrous
collisions, a panel of aviation experts said last week.
But a combination of technology, 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., June 27.
Runway incursions — which occur when aircraft cross paths and risk collision — continue to increase as air transportation grows. The National Transportation
Safety Board has placed the problem on its 10 most wanted list for a decade,
said Jim Hall, NTSB chairman.
The FAA is working on enhancements to 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 has also 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, Hampton, Va.
These technologies don't prevent incursions, said Steve Zaidman, FAA
associate administrator for research and development. They alert air traffic
controllers to a potential collision, giving them about 20 seconds to react,
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 and broadcasts 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.
"Technology is not a panacea when we look at general aviation," Boyer
said. AOPA is on a campaign to improve awareness and introduce precautions
such as having pilots voluntarily stop their aircraft before crossing runways.
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.
As for high-tech help, some solutions are not as far off as they seem,
said Michael Lewis, director of the Aviation Safety Program at NASA Langley.
NASA is working on surface-display technology that provides an electronic
moving map on a heads-up display. The maps create a synthetic vision system
by integrating surface situational awareness and runway incursion alerting