General Takes Command of FAA Air Traffic Organization Safety

A man intimately familiar with the U.S. aviation system, Air Force Reserve Brigadier Gen. Robert O. Tarter, takes over today as vice president of Safety Services for the Federal Aviation Administration's Air Traffic Organization (ATO). Safety Services audits safety and quality control in the ATO and facilitates safety performance and improvement; one of its main concerns is reducing the risk of runway hazards, according to FAA, which announced April 9 that a technology called Runway Status Lights that warns pilots about potential runway safety hazards will be installed at Boston Logan International Airport in November 2009 with testing beginning in December 2009 -- two years before a planned national deployment.

"General Tarter's distinguished military career, combined with his experience as an airline pilot and safety professional, brings extraordinary capability to our ranks," Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell said. "He assumes oversight for our air traffic safety operations at a critical time for the industry. We're glad to have him on board."

Safety Services is separate from the FAA's Office of Aviation Safety, which promotes aviation safety and monitors compliance with FAA regulations. Tarter previously was the mobilization assistant to the commander of the 1st Air Force (AFNORTH), Air Combat Command, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. AFNORTH's mission includes air defense of the continental United States.

Tarter has a master’s degree in aeronautical science (1984) from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He entered the Air Force in 1976 and has 3,600 hours flown in the military and 6,000 hours as a civilian, including as a pilot for Delta Air Lines, according to FAA.

The Runway Status Lights system is already in place at Dallas/Fort Worth and San Diego airports at non-intersecting runways and has improved runway safety without reducing capacity or increasing controller workload, FAA said this month. "We are currently experiencing the safest period in aviation history," Sturgell said April 2 as he announced plans to toughen ethical standards for inspectors and accelerate the expansion of FAA's aviation safety database. "That's not chance," he added. "It's not a miracle. It's the result of an entire industry making safety its driving focus. However, we have found ways to increase the accountability of all parties -- the FAA included -- and strengthen both the reporting role and the regulatory process."

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