Acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Robert Sturgell today announced new initiatives designed to improve runway safety at busy U.S. airports, including the installation of Runway Status Lights at major airports across the country. The agency expects to award a contract this fall to install the system at 20 additional airports over the next three years.
“Severe runway incursions are down,” said Sturgell. “And, we’re putting technology and procedures in place to keep it that way. We’re making changes on the runway and in the cockpit that are going to make a significant difference.”
The lights warn pilots when it is unsafe to cross or enter a runway, and are currently being tested at Dallas Ft. Worth and San Diego International Airports.
Runway status lights will be deployed at: Atlanta, Baltimore Washington International, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Dulles, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston Intercontinental, John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark, O’Hare, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, and Seattle airports.
Sturgell also announced that the FAA will provide up to $5 million to test in-cockpit displays that increase runway safety. The funding will cover technology that includes either an aural runway alerting system that lets pilots know where they are on the runways they are entering, crossing, or departing; or an electronic flight bag, which is an electronic display system that gives pilots information about a variety of aviation data. Most electronic flight bags incorporate a feature called airport moving map that shows aircraft positions on the airfield.
In return for the funding, aircraft owners are expected to equip their aircraft to participate in a test bed program that will evaluate operational and safety data. The in-cockpit displays have the potential to help reduce pilot errors, which are now the cause of most runway incursions.
The FAA is also soliciting industry proposals to acquire and install low-cost ground surveillance systems at airports that are not scheduled to receive Airport Surface Detection Equipment (either ASDE-3 or ASDE-X) under current FAA programs. The goal is to increase surface situational awareness and safety margins at selected airports by making basic ground surveillance technology available. The FAA has evaluated two such systems at an airport in Spokane, Washington. This new procurement will support a pilot project deployment to six additional airports during 2009. More airports will be added after a final investment decision is approved. The FAA expects to make initial awards for the pilot project by the end of August 2008.
Sturgell said that improving runway safety and reducing the risk of runway incursions are two of the FAA’s top priorities. The number of serious runway incursions has dropped by more than 55 percent from FY 2001 through FY 2007. The FAA is working closely with industry to continue to improve safety on this nation’s airports.