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On June 1, 1999, at 2350:44 central daylight time, American Airlines flight 1420, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82), N215AA, crashed after it overran the end of runway 4R during landing at Little Rock National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas. Flight 1420 departed from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Texas, about 2240 with 2 flight crewmembers, 4 flight attendants, and 139 passengers aboard and touched down in Little Rock at 2350:20. After departing the end of the runway, the airplane struck several tubes extending outward from the left edge of the instrument landing system localizer array, located 411 feet beyond the end of the runway; passed through a chain link security fence and over a rock embankment to a flood plain, located approximately 15 feet below the runway elevation; and collided with the structure supporting the runway 22L approach lighting system. The captain and 10 passengers were killed; the first officer, the flight attendants, and 105 passengers received serious or minor injuries; and 24 passengers were not injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire. Flight 1420 was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 121 on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan.
TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Incorporate, at all air traffic control facilities, a near-real-time color weather radar display that shows detailed precipitation intensities. This display could be incorporated by configuring existing and planned Terminal Doppler Weather Radar or Weather Systems Processor systems with this capability or by procuring, within 1 year, a commercial computer weather program currently available through the Internet or existing stand-alone computer hardware that displays the closest single-site Weather Surveillance Radar 1988 Doppler data or regional mosaic images.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Unacceptable Action
LITTLE ROCK, AR, United States
Runway Overrun During Landing, American Airlines Flight 1420, McDonnell Douglas MD-82
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FAA (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Air Traffic Control, RADAR, Weather, Weather Equipment/Products/Reports
Safety Recommendation History
The intent of this recommendation was for the FAA to use commercially available, low-cost systems to immediately supply weather information to all ATC facilities, particularly the large number with no access to important weather data. At an October 8, 2003, meeting of FAA and NTSB staff concerning this recommendation, the FAA stated that, by fiscal year 2010, 541 of the 546 ATC facilities would have weather displays that would have the recommended capabilities. The FAA also indicated that significant operational issues existed related to using commercial computer weather programs currently available through the Internet or existing standalone computer hardware that displays the closest single-site WSR-88D data. On December 15, 2004, the NTSB informed the FAA that the interests of aviation safety were not served by leaving controllers without needed weather data that is readily available through low-cost, commercial, off-the-shelf products, and that waiting until 2010 was not acceptable when these systems were already available. There has been no further communication concerning this recommendation since that time. In its current letter, the FAA stated that 498 of the 565 ATC facilities have the recommended capability to provide controllers with a near-real-time color weather radar display that shows detailed precipitation intensities, and it does not plan to provide this capability for the remaining 67 due to the low number of aircraft operations and/or the lack of nearby radar coverage for those airports. The FAA also reiterated that it had decided not to use commercial computer weather programs currently available through the Internet because (1) the information that a controller would have to interpret is not standardized and (2) it would not be cost efficient for the FAA to provide the consistent training and procedures on how to use and interpret the information that these programs supply. Finally, the FAA stated that many of the remaining sites do not have Internet access. Because this recommendation is now over 9 years old, the NTSB has considered whether the FAA’s actions to date meet the intent of the recommendation. We disagree with the FAA that low-cost commercial computer weather programs should not be used to supply needed weather information to controllers and point out that the FAA’s contractor, who supplies flight service station (FSS) services, uses similar products for the weather information provided by the FSS. In addition, the 67 facilities that do not have and will not receive the needed capability to provide current weather information to controllers constitute almost 12 percent of the total number of ATC facilities. Therefore, because the FAA plans no further action to address this recommendation, Safety Recommendation A-01-56 is classified CLOSED – UNACCEPTABLE ACTION.
201100100: - From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: Advanced Service - 121 Facilities: The FAA's advanced services include the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) and the Weather and Radar Processor system (WARP). ITWS not only shows real-time high resolution precipitation levels, but also provides windshear, microburst and forecast growth, and movement of convective activity. The FAA deployed ITWS to: • 34 Terminal Radar Approach Control facilities; • 62 Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) facilities; • 20 Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) facilities; and • The Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) - for a total of 117 ATC facilities. In addition, the WARP system provides near-real-time color weather radar displays, showing detailed precipitation intensities using Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD), to: • All 21 ARTCC facilities; • The three Center Radar Approach Control facilities; and • The ATCSCC - for an addition of four new ATC facilities. Basic Service - 377 Facilities: Every ATC facility with basic service provides the controller with a limited level of precipitation information. Out of the 377 ATC facilities that have basic service, 122 of these facilities are covered by an Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR) -9 or -11 system, projected on displays like the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System. When these systems provide the radar information, a dedicated weather capability provides the appropriate precipitation levels to the controller by displaying weather information in relation to the aircraft position. The remaining ATC facilities are covered by systems that show less advanced levels of precipitation detail, such as the Air Route Surveillance Radar, ASR-7, ASR-8, or other similar systems. We are working to provide these remaining facilities with more advanced capabilities. No Service - 67 Facilities: The lack of basic radar weather displays at 67 facilities is due to the low number of aircraft operations and/or the lack of near-by radar coverage for an airport, both of which are criteria for deploying these displays. The FAA decided not to pursue the use of commercial computer weather programs currently available through the Internet due to the following issues and safety concerns: • The information that the controller would have to interpret is not standardized in format, latency, and geographical relationship to the controller's airspace; • The interpretation of conflicting weather radar information by a commercial Internet service may not be aligned with the FAA safety mission; • Providing consistent training and procedures on how this information is to be used cannot be done in a cost efficient manner; and • Many of the remote ATCT facilities have no Internet access. Service Modernization: Facilities will increase service levels as superior aviation weather systems are introduced. For example, eight additional ATCT facilities will have ITWS available by June 2011, moving them from a basic to advanced service level. We are also currently implementing a program that will employ the new National Airspace System Information Display System (NIDS), capable of receiving and displaying weather from available weather radar products, including NEXRAD, for each location. NIDS deployment is planned to begin near September 2011 and will continue until December 20IS. This program will provide weather access to all but 75 ATCT facilities. We are exploring how these remaining facilities can be included in the deployment. The FAA will start the investment analysis for the deployment of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Weather Processor and NextGen Network-Enabled Weather this month. The combination of these capabilities will increase the accessibility to the near-real-time color weather radar information that shows detailed precipitation intensities to ATC facilities that will have NIDS. Initial operating capability is expected to occur at a first site in September 2015. I will keep the Board informed of the FANs progress on this safety recommendation, and I will provide an update by February 28, 2012.
NMC# 102561: On October 8, 2003, staff from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board met to discuss safety recommendations concerning airports, including Safety Recommendation A-01-56, stated below. This recommendation was issued to the FAA as a result of the Safety Board's investigation of the June 1, 1999, accident involving American Airlines flight 1420, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82, which overran the end of the runway while landing at Little Rock National Airport, Little Rock, Arkansas. A-01-56 Incorporate, at all air traffic control [ATC] facilities, a near-real-time color weather radar display that shows detailed precipitation intensities. This display could be incorporated by configuring existing and planned Terminal Doppler Weather Radar or Weather Systems Processor systems with this capability or by procuring, within 1 year, a commercial computer weather program currently available through the Internet or existing standalone computer hardware that displays the closest single-site Weather Surveillance Radar 1988 Doppler data or regional mosaic images. The Safety Board points out that the intent of this recommendation was to use commercially available low-cost systems to immediately supply weather information to all ATC facilities, particularly the large number with no access to important weather data. Frequently a controller at an ATC facility does not have access to information about a thunderstorm's location, movement and intensity; yet, in the same area, this information can be obtained from the Weather Channel on television. On February 19, 2002, the FAA indicated that it had fielded, or was in the process of fielding, systems that would display detailed real- or near-real-time precipitation intensity information at 120 airports, which account for the majority of operations in the United States. The FAA was also considering a new program that would supply similar information to approximately 220 of about 470 airports. The FAA indicated that there was no plan to extend the coverage beyond this projected number of airports. On October 17, 2002, the Board responded that it believed that relatively low-cost systems currently exist with the needed capability via commercially available computer weather programs available through the Internet or existing standalone computer hardware that displays the closest single-site Weather Systems Radar (WSR)-88D data. Because the FAA did not plan to provide the recommended capability to more than half of all airports, the Board classified Safety Recommendation A-01-56 "Open-Unacceptable Response." At the October 8, 2003, meeting, the FAA indicated that of 546 facilities, 234 currently have weather displays and that by fiscal year 2010, 541 of the facilities would have weather displays. The FAA also indicated its belief that significant operational issues exist related to using a commercial computer weather program currently available through the Internet or existing standalone computer hardware that displays the closest single-site WSR-88D data. Among these issues were security concerns regarding data obtained through the Internet and concerns about display format and training for air traffic controllers who will receive this information. At the meeting, the Safety Board indicated that this recommendation was intended to quickly provide already available weather data to controllers. The Board notes that it is investigating a May 24, 2003, accident in Amarillo, Texas, in which severe weather was a significant factor. In that accident, the controller did not have information on the severe weather even though he could see the National Weather Service's Next Generation Radar facility located adjacent to the tower. On February 26, 2004, the FAA supplied information indicating why it believes it cannot do as recommended. The FAA noted that, during the summer of 2000, the failure of the Galaxy IV communications satellite left FAA automated flight service station (AFSS) controllers without the means to provide pilots with the required graphical weather information. To fill the void, some AFSSs elected to access the Internet as a backup means of supporting their operations. After the Galaxy IV event, the FAA determined that the products used by some AFSSs were outdated and deemed unreliable, thus putting the FAA under undue and unnecessary liability. The Safety Board believes that the interests of aviation safety are not served by leaving controllers without needed weather data that is readily available through low-cost, commercial, off-the-shelf products. Further, the Board believes that waiting until 2010 is not acceptable when low-cost commercial systems are already available. The Board asks the FAA to reconsider its decision to not take the recommended action. Pending the FAA's re-evaluation of the recommended action, Safety Recommendation A-01-56 remains classified OPEN -- UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
The Safety Board continues to believe that a near-real-time color weather radar display that shows detailed precipitation intensities is needed at all ATC facilities. The Safety Board also believes that relatively low-cost systems currently exist that can provide the needed capability via commercially available computer weather programs available through the Internet or existing stand-alone computer hardware that displays the closest single-site WSR?88D data. The Board asks the FAA to reconsider its decision to provide the recommended capability to fewer than half of the ATC facilities in the United States. Pending the provision of near-real-time color weather radar displays at all ATC facilities, Safety Recommendation A-01-56 is classified OPEN -- UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
Letter Mail Controlled 02/21/2002 7:49:04 PM MC# 2020178 - From Jane F. Garvey, Administrator: The FAA has fielded Terminal Doppler Weather Radars (TDWR) at 45 operational sites. Forty-three of these sites are commissioned and two are in the final stages of commissioning. There are also two TDWRs in use to support the operational sites. The FAA does not plan to purchase or field any additional TDWRs. The TDWR was intended to provide coverage in a limited area and for specific high traffic count, high weather risk airports. The TDWR was not designed with eventual distribution of weather data to outside users as a requirement. Consequently, the number of available data ports in the system is limited. The data provided by TDWR will be ingested in the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) when that system is fielded. The ITWS will have the capability to distribute weather data more widely. At existing prototype ITWS sites, this data is being shared with selected outside aviation users like the Federal Express operations center in Memphis, Tennessee. The ITWS will be fielded at 34 sites and will provide coverage at all the airports currently being served by TDWR. The ITWS receives data from all available FAA weather sensors, from NEXRAD, and from airborne sources. The ITWS products will be made available to aviation users through an interface currently being developed by VOLPE. The Weather Systems Processor (WSP) is currently being deployed and will eventually be operational at 34 airports that have less traffic or less convective weather activity than the airports served by TDWR. The WSP enhances the weather capabilities of the Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR-9) and delivers TDWR-like products for use by air traffic personnel and air traffic managers. The WSP was designed with an external user interface, which will allow reasonably easy dissemination of weather products to interested aviation users. The WSP also has the Terminal Weather Information for Pilots (TWIP) interface and can easily be included in the TWIP effort to put current weather in the cockpit. It should be noted that both TDWR and WSP are limited in their coverage area and cannot be used to provide data outside that area. The FAA is in the early stages of acquiring and fielding the Medium Intensity Airport Weather System (MIAWS). This will be a relatively simple, low-cost system that will ingest selected WSR-88D (NEXRAD) data, process it to make it usable for people who are not meteorologically trained, and display it in selected air traffic control facilities. This system will provide a detailed presentation of precipitation intensities. Initially this system will be fielded in those 40 airports scheduled to receive the updated Low Level Wind shear Alert System (LLWAS-RS). The system has the potential to be fielded to as many as 100 additional sites. The FAA has fielded or is in the process of fielding systems that will display detailed real or near real time precipitation intensity information at a total of 120 airports. These airports account for the great majority of airport operations in the United States. If the decision is made to expand the fielding of MIAWS, approximately 220 of a total number of airports (about 470) will be covered by such systems. At this time there is no plan to extend this coverage beyond this projected number of airports.
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