Ground surveillance system manufacturer Sensis and avionics maker Honeywell are experimenting with an in-cockpit runway incursion preventative that could be implemented at a growing number of airports equipped with the Sensis Airport Surface Detection Equipment Model X (ASDE-X) system.
The system, which both companies stress is a technology initiative and not a product, transmits runway incursion warnings computed by a ground-based ASDE-X, with minor software modifications, to an in-cockpit Honeywell-built traffic-collision alerting system (TCAS), also with minor software modifications.
The altered TCAS system then issues a specially developed aural warning for two test scenarios - an impending collision on converging runways ("Converging Aircraft") and a runway that is occupied ("Runway Occupied") when an aircraft in on final approach.
Sensis conceived ASDE-X after the US National Transportation Safety Board asked the company to help analyse a "near miss" between an Air China Boeing 747 and a Korean Air 747 at Chicago O'Hare in April 1999, says Marc Viggiano, chief strategy officer for Sensis.
As the company developed the system, Viggiano says developers included "latent capabilities" that today have allowed for the incursion warning to be broadcast into the cockpit, a feature for which the NTSB has been a staunch proponent.
ASDE-X determines the location of aircraft and vehicles on or near the airport through a combination of surface movement radar, transponder multilateration and automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast (ADS-B) equipment.
The system uses built-in software to extrapolate the likely intention of aircraft and vehicle, alerting controllers of 50 different types of impending collisions.
TCAS is typically disabled on or near the airport as it is not accurate enough to show the precise position of nearby aircraft.
Sensis joined forces with Honeywell one year ago to develop the in-cockpit alerting system that is being tested at the FAA's ASDE-X test site at Syracuse Hancock International airport in New York state using a Beechcraft King Air and a Rockwell Sabreliner with TCAS modifications.ASDE-X is now installed in nine airports, although Sensis says the systems at O'Hare and Charlotte Douglas International airport will be operational by the end of August. The US Federal Aviation Administration ultimately plans to install ASDE-X in 35 US airports by 2011 at a cost of $550 million.