Controllers Union Blames "FAA'S Short-Sighted Budget Cuts"
Turning a blind eye to
one of its very own performance goals, the Federal Aviation
Administration is dramatically slowing the deployment of a key
piece of equipment designed to reduce the threat of runway
accidents, providing more proof that the agency's haphazard cuts to
its modernization budget are affecting aviation safety.
The equipment, Airport Surface Detection Equipment-Model X
(ASDE-X), provides air traffic controllers with an all-weather,
seamless airport surface surveillance system that uses both radar
and a process of determining a target location in two or three
dimensions called multilateration.
The ASDE-X program was originally scheduled to be completed in
2007, but due to FAA budgetary decisions, only 15 of the scheduled
34 sites will have received ASDE-X by then. In the next fiscal
year, only two airports will receive ASDE-X; Houston Hobby and
Charlotte Douglas International, while only three sites will have
it in fiscal year 2006 and five others in fiscal year 2007.
"We have a tool designed to aid the air traffic controller in
reducing the threat of runway accidents and the FAA has a goal to
reduce serious runway incursions. The FAA and NATCA agree that
ASDE-X would be of great benefit to the safety of the aviation
industry, yet at the same time, the budget and deployment of this
tool is threatened," National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Director of Safety and Technology Doug Fralick said. "This just
does not make any sense whatsoever."
In addition, the
majority of the ASDE-X installations and testing dates have been
pushed back to 2008 and 2009 when there is no funding allocated for
fielding this equipment. As it is, the program has had its budget
cut $20.2 million for fiscal year 2004 and fiscal year 2005.
"It's been nearly a decade since NATCA proposed the idea of a
low-cost surface surveillance system for mid-size airports. This
idea evolved into incorporating the data from the runway safety
technology already in place at 34 larger airports," Fralick said.
"Considering that runway incursions remain one of the National
Transportation Safety Board's most important concerns and are
keeping the FAA from achieving all of its safety performance goals,
the last thing the FAA should do is turn its back on ASDE-X and
miss a crucial opportunity to seriously tackle the issue of runway
Despite frequent assurances to NATCA that all sites on the
original ASDE-X deployment plan would be funded, two in fact,
Reno/Tahoe International Airport and San Juan-Luis Munoz Marin
International Airport, have no funding. In order to receive the
ASDE-X systems they were promised, these two airport authorities
will have to apply for Airport Improvement Program funding and pay
25 percent of the cost themselves.