Because runway incursions are on everyone’s radar (they have been on the NTSB’s “most wanted transportation safety improvements list” since 1990), the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General plans to look more closely at how the FAA is managing the airport surface detection equipment–model X (ASDE-X) program. ASDE-X provides detailed information to air traffic controllers, but not directly to pilots, about aircraft runway and taxiway operations.
The IG audit, which starts today, comes on the heels of 17 severe runway incursions reported by FAA in the past 12 months compared with just seven in the preceding year. While the FAA has completed ASDE-X deployment at 35 major U.S. airports, the agency has not yet fully integrated its use with other technology systems such as runway status lights and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast to enable simultaneous alerts to pilots and controllers of potential ground collisions.
“Given the recent increase in severe runway incursions, the FAA’s progress in this area is important to increase situational awareness at airports,” said a DOT statement. “The audit’s objective is to assess the FAA’s progress in integrating ASDE-X with other surveillance technology systems designed to improve runway safety. Progress in achieving these enhancements will be impacted by a number of issues, such as establishing requirements for technical upgrades, testing to verify system integrity and determining whether the ASDE-X capabilities will meet FAA’s goals for increasing safety and capacity,” said the statement.