Report Critical of FAA Progress on Runway Safety Issues

 - August 11, 2014, 10:40 AM

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.

The IG’s report highlights software deficiencies in the FAA’s efforts to integrate RWSL with ASDE-X, resulting in schedule delays and cost growth. Initial tests, in fact, revealed critical deficiencies with system reliability and faulty RWSL light fixtures that either generated false alerts or did not function at all. Further testing identified 50 operational and technical issues, 30 of which were still unresolved when the FAA deployed the first operational RWSL system in August last year.

The IG said the FAA must develop additional software to correct the faults before it can deploy the remaining systems. When the FAA recalculated program costs, it found they had risen to $367 million from $327 million. The agency responded by reducing the number of planned systems to 17 from 23, and delayed program completion by two years, to 2017.

According to the IG, the FAA’s planning documents lack key details regarding priorities, timing and accountability. “Without a clear roadmap, it is unlikely that any level of technology or standard for runway safety can be measured or achieved,” the IG report concluded.