Officials at the US Transportation Department are concerned that the FAA still faces cost and schedule risk in introducing new airport technology to prevent runway accidents and incidents.

In testimony before a Congressional committee today the department’s inspector general Calvin Scovel said that FAA has spent about $314 million, or 57% of its planned funding for the Airport Surface Detection Equipment Model X (ASDE-X) program.

ASDE-X combines radar, multilateration systems, aircraft transponders, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) and other surveillance techniques with airport-specific software to provide controllers with advanced warning of 50 or more types for collisions between aircraft or other vehicles on the airport surface.

Scovel says FAA has only deployed 12 of 35 systems for operational use and still needs to deploy 23 systems at “the more complex airports with less than half of the planned funds remaining”.

FAA officials recently told Congress that the installation of an ASDE-X surveillance system is necessary for the runway status light system incursion technology that uses red lights on runways and taxiways to warn pilots that a runway is occupied.

If ASDE-X software predicts an incursion, the red lights are activated on the runway surface to alert pilots of a potential conflict.

The agency is also looking for affordable alternatives to ASDE-X, and is currently experimenting with two low-cost surveillance systems that offer information similar to what is offered by ASDE-X to systems that operate similarly to runway status light technology.

FAA acting administrator Robert Sturgell highlighted the effectiveness of runway status lights in remarks to the same committee.

“The bottom line. They work,” says Sturgell. He tells the committee they’ve already averted one potential tragedy at Dallas Fort Worth airport.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news