AMASSing opportunities

Dimensions International Inc. is one of two contractors developing the $151.7 million Airport Movement Area Safety System for the Federal Aviation Administration. AMASS, to be used at 34 of the nation's busiest airports, will alert air traffic controllers to potential accidents on runways.

AMASS enhances data from the Airport Surface Detection Equipment-3 radar system used to monitor aircraft movements on the ground. The system gives controllers visual and audible warnings when a runway incursion is about to occur.

DI's portion of the project involves monitoring incoming aircraft and predicting their positions and the runways they will use, said Dave Dougherty, a DI program manager. "This system is [designed] to tell controllers when something happens that's not expected," Dougherty said.

AMASS has had its share of unexpected problems. It is more than 150 percent over budget and six years behind schedule, and has come under fire from Congress. The scope of the project has been cut back considerably. Originally designed to prevent runway incursions from happening in the first place, AMASS now is designed to warn controllers when actual collisions are likely. And according to hearing testimony from the National Transportation Safety Board in June, AMASS often issues warnings about ground incidents too late for controllers to respond effectively.

But DI's portion of the system works, according to John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Aviation Sub.committee. When an airborne aircraft is headed toward an occupied runway, the system issues an alert an average of 22 seconds before a potential collision would occur, he said.

AMASS is operational at two airports, and the 32 others are scheduled to field the system by the end of 2002.

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