FAA says new radar will help avoid runway crashes

The Federal Aviation Administration officially began operating a ground radar system at Milwaukee-Mitchell International Airport designed to prevent runway collisions by giving air traffic controllers a multilayered picture of airplanes and other vehicles moving about at the airport.

The Airport Surface Detection Equipment-X system moved from testing to official use last Thursday. FAA will roll out the system at 24 airports through 2007 and use it to update existing surface detection systems at nine other facilities.

Sensors placed around the airport give controllers a picture of what is happening on the ground. The system integrates data from the sensors with other data such as weather and flight information.

Air traffic controllers maintain radio and visual contact with airplanes as they taxi on the runways whether an airport has a surface radar system or not, an FAA briefing paper said. Many airports have no radar system of any kind and rely on standard air traffic procedures.

The ASDE-X, unlike other FAA modernization programs, came in close to on schedule and cost, said Transportation Department inspector general Kenneth Mead, who testified last week at a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Aviation Subcommittee.

FAA currently estimates it will spend $505.2 million on the system, 19 percent higher than the original estimate of $424.3 million, Mead said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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