A system of in-pavement stoplights, designed to prevent runway incursions, has received endorsement from Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel. Known as runway status lights (RWSL), the system has been under test at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) since 2003 and at San Diego International Airport since 2005.
While the FAA has made progress in reducing operational errors and runway incursions, Transportation Department inspector general Kenneth Mead warned the agency last month that the number of these incidents is still too high considering the potentially catastrophic results of a midair collision or a runway accident.
Although few pilots may know the word, multilateration is quickly becoming a household term among air traffic controllers and airport authorities. But pilots will ultimately be one of its major beneficiaries.
Pilots flying to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and San Diego Lindbergh Field might notice unusual runway status lights that warn of possible conflicting traffic. The systems have been in place since 2005 at DFW and 2006 at Lindbergh, but the FAA recently awarded contracts to upgrade the status light test systems and to install them at more airports with complex configurations.
Following the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of aviation runway and ramp safety, several members of Congress called on the FAA to take immediate steps “to address its inattention to runway and taxiway safety.”
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.
Per a request by House aviation subcommittee chairman Jerry Costello, the Government Accountability Office yesterday issued a report on runway safety, and the results don’t paint the FAA in the best of light.
To bring the U.S. in line with the international definitions of runway incursions, the FAA has adopted the ICAO standards, effective immediately. The biggest difference between the two definitions is that ICAO defines a runway incursion as any unauthorized intrusion onto a runway, regardless of whether an aircraft presents a potential conflict.
The FAA said yesterday that it exceeded its goal for reducing the 'most serious' runway incursions by 25 percent in Fiscal Year 2007, which ended September 30. According to the agency, there were 24 serious runway incursions this past year out of more than 61 million operations, or one for every 2.545 million operations, exceeding the agency's goal of no more than one incursion for every two million surface movements.
The NTSB has asked Congress to “convince the FAA of the need for immediate action” to prevent runway incursions. In an August 29 letter to 12 members of Congress, Safety Board chairman Carol Carmody and two Board members said the NTSB has issued 100 recommendations regarding runway incursions since 1983. The issue has been on the Safety Board’s list of “Most Wanted Safety Improvements” since 1990.