US FAA, NTSB witness runway incursion demos in Syracuse

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US Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials have travelled to upstate New York to witness a runway incursion prevention system designed to satisfy one of the NTSB's most pressing requests to the FAA - to provide "immediate warnings of probable collisions/incursions directly to flightcrews in the cockpit".

Built by ground surveillance system manufacturer Sensis and avionics maker Honeywell, the demonstrator transmits runway incursion warnings computed by a ground-based Airport Surface Detection Equipment Model X (ASDE-X) system via Mode S transponder datalink to a modified in-cockpit, Honeywell-built traffic-collision alerting system (TCAS). In the aircraft, pilots are warned of impending incursions or occupied runways by an aural alert.

ASDE-X, now operating at 11 airports and eventually set for 35, provides tower controllers with conflict alerts and resolutions for about 50 incursion scenarios using a combination of surface movement radar, transponder multilateration and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) equipment to compute the precise location of vehicles and aircraft on or near the airport.

The system uses built-in software to extrapolate the likely intention of aircraft and vehicles from 15-45s into the future. Honeywell and Sensis last year began collaborating to build the on-board alert technology demonstrator, using existing ASDE-X warnings, available datalink bandwidth and existing TCAS functionality.

The field trip on 27 August to Syracuse Hancock International airport, the FAA's ASDE-X test site, adds to the growing list of efforts the FAA and NTSB are taking to address potentially catastrophic incursions, which are occurring about once every 10 days. The NTSB in March held a runway incursion symposium to highlight issues and solutions, and the FAA in mid-August gathered industry officials to collectively address the runway incursion problem.

As a result of that meeting, the FAA said it would dispatch government/industry safety action teams to 20 problematic airports to review standard operating procedures, signage and markings and other potential issues. Along with four other short-term actions to be completed in two months, the FAA also said it would revisit mid-term and long-term projects including technologies that will maximise pilot situational awareness and minimise distractions.