FAA approves warning system for runways

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of a system at 34 airports that alerts air traffic controllers of potential runway accidents, the agency announced Tuesday.

The Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) provides controllers with visual and aural alerts of potential runway accidents that could involve aircraft or runway vehicles. The FAA tested AMASS at the San Francisco and Detroit airports.

Runway incursions happen when an aircraft, vehicle or person on the ground moves into the path of another aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board has listed runway incursions in its top 10 safety issues since 1990 and has pushed the FAA to field AMASS during that period.

AMASS enhances the Airport Surface Detection Equipment-3 (ASDE-3) radars, which are being installed at 34 airports. The system uses surveillance data from ASDE-3, the airport surveillance radar and the terminal automation system to determine possible collisions between aircraft and vehicles.

The FAA initially planned for AMASS to provide alerts if aircraft moved too close to other aircraft while taking off, intending to take off, landing or intending to land, but the system produced too many false alarms during testing in San Francisco. Last spring, the FAA decided to limit the system's use to runway incursions.

The system is expected to be in operation at the remaining 32 airports by the end of 2002, an FAA statement said. AMASS was originally supposed to be deployed in 2000, but hardware and software problems, including the false alerts, required additional time for development and testing, FAA officials said last year.

AMASS uses two systems, one built by Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. Norden Systems and the other built by Dimensions International Inc.

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