FAA Tackles Runway Risks

WASHINGTON (06/28/2000) - 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 U.S. 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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