Airport Safety:

New Radar That Will Help Prevent Accidents Is 4 Years Behind Schedule

T-RCED-91-78: Published: Jul 10, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 10, 1991.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) new ground radar Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE-3), focusing on: (1) delays associated with its installation; (2) the significance of problems uncovered during recent testing; and (3) the status of the FAA Runway Incursion Plan for enhancing ground safety at airports. GAO noted that: (1) the ASDE-3 deployment schedule has slipped almost 4 years and could slip even further due to software problems, changing requirements, and unforseen performance problems; (2) in spite of its split-target problems, ASDE-3 performance during heavy rain or fog is superior to the old system; (3) further delays in FAA deployment of ASDE-3 could occur, since some airports are not prepared to accept ASDE-3; (4) the new FAA approach to selecting airports for ASDE-3 installation does not consider historical information on runway incursions; (5) FAA failed to assign priorities to or estimate costs of the 44 Runway Incursion Plan projects; (6) although ASDE-3 is part of the FAA plan, it is not affected by FAA priority problems because it is under a production contract; and (7) FAA failure to set program priorities and funding levels could result in untimely completion of other projects, the dilution of available funds, and failure to give urgent problems the appropriate attention.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA has incorporated language into a draft change to Airway Planning Standard Number (APS-1) to explicitly consider runway incursions, in addition to economic and other facts, in locating ASDE-3s. FAA officials do not know when the new APS-1 will be published.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to factor into the FAA approach for locating ASDE-3 the experience of airports regarding the incidence of runway incursions, including the severity of the incursions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA is working with industry to set priorities for its Runway Incursion Plan. FAA is also assessing the costs of the 44 projects in the Runway Incursion Plan and determining how many airports would qualify for the plan's projects. Approval of the Plan has been delayed pending action by FAA's Operational Planning Management Team to expand the plan from dealing with runway incursions to the broader issue of surface operations. FAA officials cannot provide an estimate for when the new plan will be published.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to establish priorities and set funding levels for the 44 projects in the agency's overall Runway Incursion Plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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