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Airport Ground Alert System Continues to Pay Safety Dividends - (1/25/2002)

Contact: Dan Ellenberger 202-385-7595

BOSTON - In two recent aviation safety success stories, the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS), a new technology at Boston’s Logan International Airport, alerted air traffic controllers to potentially hazardous situations on the runway.

AMASS, first commissioned last June, provides controllers with visual and audible alerts to assist in preventing runway collisions. In the first episode last November, a business jet which landed ahead of an Airbus A300 began to taxi but mistakenly remained on the active runway. Before the local controller noticed, the AMASS alerted with a message for the A300 to go-around. “Separation was not lost, and the alert allowed for a more timely go-around instruction by the controller than if the equipment was not operational,” NATCA National AMASS Representative Dan Ellenberger said. Then last month, as a Boeing 767 diverted to Boston because of the suspected terrorist incident where a man is accused of trying to light his shoes on fire, AMASS issued a go-around alert for the two F-15 fighters that were closely following the B767 as it landed. "The AMASS did exactly what it is programmed to do when aircraft are on short final and the previous arrival is still occupying the runway,” Ellenberger stated. “These were clear-cut examples of the system doing its job. We stand by this equipment.”

Between last June and December, the FAA commissioned the AMASS system for use at Chicago O’Hare, Detroit, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma and St. Louis. 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 Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Newark and Miami are using AMASS and are awaiting full commissioning by next month. The FAA's ongoing efforts to improve runway safety call for continued installation and operation at another 22 of the nation's busiest airports by the end of next year, including Baltimore-Washington, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, New York-John F. Kennedy, New York-LaGuardia, Philadelphia and Washington-National.

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