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Controller Involvement Ensures Successful Introduction of Airport Ground Movement Alerting System in Houston - (2/24/2004)

CONTACT: Jerry McDaniel, 816-679-7637; Luke Ball, NATCA Houston, 832-594-0738; Doug Church, 202.220.9802

HOUSTON – As a result of tireless efforts by local officials of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to ensure safety and success, George Bush Intercontinental Airport received a special gift recently when it became the 34th and final airport to commission the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS), which provides air traffic controllers with visual and audible alerts to assist in preventing runway collisions.

“This is a great thing for the aviation industry and the flying public,” said Jerry McDaniel, the AMASS technical representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “When people ask what is in store for aviation in the next 100 years, they seldom mention safety. But that is where NATCA comes in. It’s our job to make the safest skies in the world just a bit safer.”

Commissioning of AMASS involves installation, a testing phase of at least 30 days and, finally, controller utilization for at least 30 days to ensure a complete evaluation. NATCA officials devoted thousands of hours to ensuring the system was safe and fully operational. After the system encountered many problems in the early development stage, NATCA got involved, identified hazards and then worked to eliminate bugs such as false alerts.

“From the beginning, we knew this airport was going to be a unique challenge for deploying AMASS,” said Dave Strang, the AMASS representative for NATCA at the Houston Intercontinental control tower. “The team here all pulled together to develop a unique AMASS system for the airport and we commissioned it quickly. This was a remarkable achievement.”

AMASS has been credited with helping to prevent possible collisions at several airports over the past couple of years. Last summer, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, an airport vehicle mistakenly crossed a runway in front of a landing jet. But the AMASS system alerted the controller, who then immediately took action to avoid an incident.

"This equipment couldn't have come at a better time for this airport,” remarked Luke Ball, NATCA local chapter president for the Houston Intercontinental Tower. “In the last few years, we have extended one runway and added another. This extra runway capacity expands the area our controllers have to watch. The improved display and additional information provided by AMASS allows us to maintain the level of safety that has always been one of the highest in the country. Also, the monitoring capability of AMASS provides a ‘second set of eyes’ to ensure that any mistake made is caught in time."

In addition to Houston and Atlanta, AMASS is also in use at Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Los Angeles, Newark, New York-John F. Kennedy, New York-LaGuardia and San Francisco.

Concluded McDaniel: “Maximizing safety without affecting the growth of 21st century air travel is a very complicated process. This system does just that.”

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