ASDE-X comes under audit scrutiny

A US aviation watchdog plans this week to initiate an audit on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Surface Detection Equipment –Model X (ASDE-X) Programme.
ASDE-X provides detailed information to air traffic controllers on aircraft operations on runways and taxiways.  While FAA has completed ASDE-X deployment at 35 major airports, it has not yet fully integrated its use with other technology systems such as Runway Status Lights and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) to enable simultaneous alerts for controllers and pilots of potential ground collisions.
Prevention of runway incursions and ground collisions has been on the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) ‘Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements List’ since 1990.
However, ASDE-X does not yet provide alerts directly to pilots, which has been a longstanding NTSB recommendation. To address this shortcoming, the FAA is planning to integrate the use of ASDE-X with two other systems—Runway Status Lights (RWSL) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)—to enable simultaneous alerts for controllers and pilots of potential ground collisions.
Given the recent increase in severe runway incursions, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Transportation says the FAA’s progress in this area is important to increase situational awareness at airports and wants to assess the agency’s progress in integrating ASDE-X with other surveillance technology systems designed to improve runway safety.
“While the FAA has made significant progress over the past decade in mitigating the most serious runway incursions (i.e. incidents when a collision nearly occurred between aircraft or vehicles on a runway), this trend is reversing,” said Jeffrey B. Guzzetti, an assistant inspector for aviation and special programme audits. “The agency has reported 17 severe runway incursions this past fiscal year (FY), compared to only 7 for FY 2011.”
“Progress in achieving these enhancements will be impacted by a number of issues, such as establishing requirements for technical upgrades, testing to verify system integrity, and determining whether the ASDE-X capabilities will meet FAA’s goals for increasing safety and capacity. Accordingly, our audit objective is to assess FAA’s progress in integrating ASDE-X with other technologies such as RWSL and ADS-B to improve runway safety,” said Guzzetti.