FAA's Role in Developing a Mid-Air Collision-Avoidance System

Published: Sep 25, 1986. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 1986.

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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) role in developing a viable mid-air collision avoidance system. FAA recently announced that it would require the use of its Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) on all commercial aircraft, possibly by 1990. GAO noted that: (1) FAA chose an early version of TCAS for further development over other prototype systems because it could warn an aircraft of any approaching aircraft equipped with a transponder; (2) FAA currently plans three TCAS models, with varying levels of technical sophistication, and intended for different types of aircraft; (3) FAA is currently concentrating on developing TCAS II, which is intended for passenger aircraft; (4) various industry organizations believe that only TCAS III is sufficient to meet overall aviation needs; (5) some TCAS program officials believe that FAA involvement in both research and development and the certification of TCAS effectiveness has led it to become overly cautious in the certification process; and (6) FAA is concerned about product liability for TCAS, and might have to accept responsibility for any collision resulting from a TCAS defect.