An Oct. 2 front-page article focused on the Federal Aviation Administration's failure to field the Airport Movement Area Safety System in a timely and efficient manner. It did not report on the larger issue of what the FAA is doing in the interim to address the runway incursion hazard.
The FAA has issued numerous "safety action plans" with little or no actual change. Target dates are frequently delayed or rescheduled. The FAA's runway safety program has had five managers in five years. The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated most of the recent critical runway incursion incidents, yet no specific safety recommendations have emerged.
The article presented a compelling picture of how dangerous the surface system is: five fatal runway collisions involving aircraft since 1990, resulting in 59 fatalities; a more than 70 percent increase in the number and rate of runway incursions in the past five years; and, since January, four critical runway incursions involving aircraft that narrowly missed colliding (and a fifth occurred on Sept. 11 at Chicago O'Hare). So, why is the government doing so little to resolve this serious safety problem?
The airport surface system has been neglected for decades; it desperately needs attention to upgrade and modernize navigation, communication, procedures, training and technology. The public should demand immediate action to identify and implement effective solutions to prevent runway incursion before another fatal collision occurs.
The writer is a former senior manager at the NTSB.