Screening Out Runway Incursions

 - December 7, 2007, 5:38 AM

FAA airport safety researchers have created a prototype taxiway screen that could help prevent runway incursions at airports with taxiways that pass well beyond the ends of runways. The screens “hide” aircraft on end-around taxiways from the view of pilots preparing to take off on active runways.

The screens give the pilots a point of reference, enabling them to focus on aircraft that are taxiing on the runways in front of the screens and to distinguish them from those moving on the taxiways behind the screens.

The prototype system, built and tested by FAA researchers at the William J. Hughes Technical Center near Atlantic City, N.J., is a 112-foot long, 13-foot high plastic board screen set up on two mobile trailers, allowing for easy movement on and off the runway. The FAA is testing the screens in different configurations.

The screens can be placed at the end of a runway to block the view between that runway and an end-around taxiway. End-around taxiways are built beyond the 1,000-foot runway safety area.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Detroit’s Metro airports have such taxiways, and one will be installed at Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport to facilitate aircraft movement between the runways and terminal gates without having to cross active runways. In addition to safer operations, the taxiways have the potential to increase capacity.

Ongoing Testing
The screens were set up recently at Atlantic City International Airport
at the end of the 10,000-foot Runway 13-31. Researchers used an airport vehicle to simulate an airplane taking off and videotaped its movement along the runway to see how well the screens blocked a pilot’s view of the taxiway areas beyond the end of the runway.

“This project helps address two of the FAA’s key challenges: increasing airport capacity and reducing runway incursions,” said Joan Bauerlein, FAA director of research and development. “Our researchers are working on engineered solutions to improve safety at airports, especially those that are limited in their ability to expand.”

Upcoming tests will determine if the screen is more effective with chevron stripes or a checkerboard pattern. Testers will also study the effectiveness of reflective screening materials and the best lighting configuration to make the screens most visible at night. Also, the new screen will be double in size–increased to 224 feet in length–for the next set of tests. Testing is expected to continue through next month.

The research is intended to support a national agency standard for end-around taxiway screens. DFW plans to install the first FAA-approved screens later this year. The two screens that will go up at DFW will be 700 feet long and 13 feet high.