The number of runway incursions at US airports is increasing as the US Federal Aviation Administration's plan to reduce the problem has fallen behind schedule.

The US aviation agency had hoped that the Northrop Grumman Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) would offer an early runway incursion protection capability at 34 major US airports. AMASS adds a software enhancement to the company's Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE-3) system, providing tower controllers with conflict alert of potential runway incursions.

The system has suffered cost growth and schedule delays due to software development problems and human factor issues. The last installation will not take place until 2002, six years later than planned. AMASS was estimated to cost $60 million, but the latest estimate has shot up to $90 million. Field trials at three major US airports show that the safety device may never achieve its planned capabilities.

The US Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General (OIG) says the number of runway incursions rose 11%, to 325, between 1997 and 1998. Over half of those incidents resulted from pilot error. Further analysis of the 183 pilot deviations showed that 119, or 65%, involved general aviation aircraft. Runway incursions continued to be a serious problem this year, with 149 incidents during the first half, compared to 150 incursions during the first six months of 1998.

Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell recently demonstrated integration of ASDE-3 with the Northrop Grumman ASR-9 airport surveillance radar and Honeywell TracLink vehicle management and tracking system.

Source: Flight International