FAA Moving to Deploy Warning Lights Against Runway Incursions

If the Federal Aviation Administration meets several milestones later this year, it will be on the way toward wide implementation of an automated warning light system that can reduce runway incursions at large airports, according to a Jan. 14 audit report by David A. Dobbs, principal assistant DOT inspector general for Auditing and Evaluation. Auditors watched a prototype system in use at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and concluded the technology is a viable way to prevent incursions.

The report (www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/WEB_Final_RWSL.pdf) explains that the prototype system uses three types of surveillance (terminal radar, airport surface radar, and transponder multilateration) and works independently, so it does not increase controllers' workload or interfere with the normal flow of aircraft traffic. Runway incursions dropped from 10 to three at D/FW in the 29-month periods before and after its testing of the system. However, some hurdles remain, including implementation delays that the report urges FAA to eliminate.

A key recommendation in the report, one also made in an October 2007 report from the IG's office on this technology, is that airport vehicles should be equipped with transponders that will activate the automated warning lights. During rain, the system's safety logic filters out ground radar data and uses only multilateration, which requires a transponder. About 16 percent of all runway incursions are caused by vehicle operators, the report states.

FAA told Dobbs' staff that it is working to secure agreements with specific airports to deploy runway warning lights by Sept. 30, 2008, and that its office handling the deployment will issue a Request for Offer by February 2008 to expedite the deployment.

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