National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C. -- National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker today said that the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Movement Area Safety System is not adequate to prevent serious runway collisions.
Citing several recent near-collisions where AMASS did not perform, Rosenker noted that the situations were instead resolved by flight crew actions sometimes bordering on the heroic, and luck. "That is not good enough," he said in a speech this morning at the American Association of Airport Executives' Runway and Airport Safety Summit.
AMASS is designed to prevent runway incursions by warning air traffic controllers of potential surface collisions. However there have been several recent serious incursions, including a June 9 incident at Boston's Logan Airport and a July 6 incident at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, where the installed AMASS did not provide an effective alert because the system was disabled to prevent nuisance alerts or it provided the alert too late for controllers to issue instructions to the affected crews.
Preventing runway incursions has been on the Board's list of Most Wanted safety improvements since its inception. The Most Wanted recommendation asks the FAA to develop a system to provide immediate warnings of probable collisions directly to flight crews in the cockpit. As designed, AMASS provides warnings only to air traffic controllers, requiring the controller to determine the nature of the problem, identify the aircraft involved, determine what action to take, and issue appropriate instructions to the flight crews often in a matter of seconds. In the case of the August 19, 2004 incident at Los Angeles involving an Asiana Airlines Boeing 747 and a Southwest Airlines 737, the AMASS warning activated only about 10 seconds before the two aircraft would have potentially collided. The pilot of the Asiana 747 took evasive action shortly before the AMASS warning activated.
Rosenker also discussed recent incursions in Boston and New York where AMASS failed to alert controllers to dangerous circumstances because of software design and radar system performance limitations. AMASS does not detect conflicts between aircraft on converging runways and is ineffective during heavy rain.
Rosenker applauded the FAA's work on new systems to prevent runway incursions and encouraged them to develop and implement the solutions as quickly as possible. He highlighted several Safety Board recommendations that could be implemented quickly including rigorous standards for marking closed runways, improved communication techniques for controllers, and discontinuing the practice of allowing departing aircraft to hold on active runways at nighttime or at any time when ceiling/visibility preclude arriving aircraft from seeing traffic on the runway in time to initiate a go-around. Rosenker acknowledged that some changes may affect airport capacity but stated, "While capacity is important, safety is more important."
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.