The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is recommending new air traffic control procedures to combat runway incursions after the delayed implementation of technological solutions.

The NTSB says there were 332 runway incursions at US airports last year, an increase of 71% from 1993, and the board is concerned that the expected increase in air traffic activity may result in more .

Pending fielding of the troubled Northrop Grumman Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) and other safety systems, the NTSB is urging the Federal Aviation Administration to require installation of "a ground movement safety system [GMSS]" to provide direct warning to flightcrew at all US airports offering scheduled passenger services. Board members also suggest the installation of runway edge lights and stop bars at runway/taxiway intersections.

Pilots should be prohibited from crossing active runways without specific clearance from controllers, and departing aircraft should not be allowed to hold on active runways at night or in adverse weather, the NTSB recommends. The board also says the FAA should adopt the standard phrases for airport movements endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. NTSB chairman Jim Hall sees the use of stop bars as one solution to the problem. Stop bars were tested at New York's Kennedy a decade ago, but their use was never mandated.

John Mayrhofer, head of the FAA's runway safety programme office, says the administration will immediately evaluate the NTSB recommendations. He says the GMSS could encompass improved signs, markings, lighting and technological solutions such as AMASS, which adds an automation enhancement to the Northrop Grumman Airport Surface Detection Equipment 3 (ASDE-3) ground mapping radar system, installed at 34 major US airports.

Mayrhofer believes AMASS problems have been resolved. Critical AMASS testing is under way at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport, initial operations are due to start at San Francisco in September, becoming fully operational there in June next year. All ASDE-3 radars will be updated by September 2002.

Source: Flight International