The U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general (IG) last month issued recommendations related to the FAA plan to integrate two runway safety systems with airport surface detection equipment (ASDE-X). The two systems are the runway status lights (RWSL) system, which gives pilots a visible warning when runways are occupied; and the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system that generates simultaneous alerts to controllers and pilots of potential runway incursions and ground collisions.
Runway Status Lights
The FAA’s newest runway safety enhancement tool, runway status lights (RWSLs), became operational on July 25 at Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD). The new system uses a series of colored lights embedded in the runway and taxiway pavement to help prevent runway incursions by offering pilots and vehicle operators a simple visual system to determine whether it is safe to cross or enter a runway.
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.
Saab will strengthen its air-traffic-management (ATM) business, adding to its portfolio a ground surveillance system deployed at major U.S. airports, with the planned acquisition of Sensis Corp., of Syracuse, N.Y. The Swedish defense and security group is to acquire Sensis for $155 million, with another $40 million based on winning future contracts and meeting profitability goals.
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.
In a report released this week, the DOT Inspector General has found that runway status lights (RWSL) are “a viable technology” for preventing runway incursions. However, it said this technology is still in the early stages of implementation, meaning much work remains before the FAA can achieve full deployment.
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.
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 investigation report of the October 2001 runway collision between a taxiing Citation CJ2 and a Scandinavian Airlines MD-87 taking off at the Linate Airport at Milan, Italy, is quite revealing.
The FAA placed production orders for 11 of Sensis’ airport surface detection equipment systems, Model X (ASDE-X). This requisition is in addition to the 21 initial systems ordered in December 2002. The production option for the 11 ASDE-X systems, in addition to associated hardware, software and support, is worth approximately $35 million.
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