NATCA: FAA Delaying Runway Safety

 - December 19, 2007, 11:49 AM

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association accused the FAA of dragging its feet on deploying ASDE-X, which provides controllers with an all-weather, seamless airport surface surveillance system. It uses radar and a process of determining a target location in two or three dimensions called multilateration.

The ASDE-X program was originally scheduled to be completed in 2007, said NATCA, but due to FAA budgetary decisions, only 15 of the scheduled 34 sites will have received ASDE-X by then. In the current fiscal year, which began October 1, only Houston Hobby and Charlotte Douglas International airports will receive it. Three sites will get it in FY 2006 and five others in FY 2007.

NATCA, which will negotiate a new contract with the FAA next year, claimed the majority of ASDE-X installations and testing dates have been pushed back to 2008 and 2009 when there is no funding allocated for fielding this equipment. As it is, the program had its budget cut by $20.2 million for fiscal year 2004, which ended on September 30, and FY 2005.

“Considering that runway incursions remain one of the NTSB’s most important concerns and are keeping the FAA from achieving all of its safety performance goals, the last thing the FAA should do is turn its back on ASDE-X and miss a crucial opportunity to tackle seriously the issue of runway safety,” said Doug Fralick, NATCA director of safety and technology.

NATCA said that despite FAA assurances that all sites on the original ASDE-X
deployment plan would be funded, two– Reno/Tahoe International and San Juan-Luis Munoz Marin International–have no funding. To receive the ASDE-X systems they were promised, these two airport authorities will have to apply for Airport Improvement Program funding and pay 25 percent of the cost themselves, the controllers’ union said.