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Airport Ground Alert System Begins to Pay Safety Dividends - (10/22/2001)

SAN FRANCISCO – In a recent aviation safety success story, the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS), a new technology at San Francisco International Airport, alerted air traffic controllers to a potentially hazardous situation on one of their runways.

AMASS, first commissioned in June, provides controllers with visual and audible alerts to assist in preventing runway collisions. The situation earlier this month involved a departing business jet and an arriving commuter turboprop aircraft. Controllers instructed the business jet to taxi into position for departure at an intersection approximately 6,000 feet down the runway. As the commuter plane approached the airport, bright green indicators called hold bars illuminated the ground radar display, indicating it was headed inbound to the runway occupied by the business jet. Simultaneously, a text message appeared and a voice alert sounded, confirming the commuter plane’s flight path. Controllers subsequently instructed it to execute a missed approach well before the runway and the plane returned to land safely.

"It worked as advertised,” said NATCA AMASS Representative Dan Ellenberger. “This alert demonstrates the benefits of an important safety tool. NATCA and the Federal Aviation Administration have worked together to develop and deploy the AMASS system. The time, resources and money spent are more than worth it when just one aircraft, or more importantly, one life is taken out of harm's way."

The FAA has commissioned the AMASS system for use at three facilities – San Francisco, Detroit and Los Angeles. Commissioning a system involves installation, a testing phase of at least 30 days and, finally, controller utilization for at least 30 days to ensure a complete evaluation. Controllers at five other facilities are using AMASS and are awaiting full commissioning. The FAA's ongoing efforts to improve runway safety call for continued installation and operation at another 25 of the nation's busiest airports by the end of next year.

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