Overcrowded airports mean overcrowded runways, taxiways and ramps. On-the-ground collisions at the nation's airports are occurring more frequently, but NASA engineers have developed a way to keep aircraft on track and away from dangerous encounters.
It is an advanced cockpit display system, developed at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. The Runway Incursion Prevention System, or RIPS, would give pilots and air traffic controllers an early warning if another plane or ground vehicle is about to intrude onto the runway.
Close calls between aircraft and ground vehicles or other planes, often called runway incursions, have grown steadily during the past decade. In the last five years there has been a 60 percent increase in near-collisions, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, with 320 incidents reported in 1999 alone. Reducing run way incursions has become the Federal Aviation Administration's number one safety priority.
Harry Verstynen, the chief pilot from Langley, said the RIPS display has multiple uses. "Even for the large percentage of the time that you are not having a runway incursion," he said, "the displays that are being developed as part of this project will give the pilot significant improvements in situational awareness on the airport and taxiing in low visibility conditions."
Technicians equipped a NASA 757 aircraft with the experimental displays and computer systems. NASA and airline pilots made a number of overnight flight tests at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to evaluate the technologies. Their observations will be used to help refine the displays for possible use in airliners.
Airline pilots have given the system high marks. "We have made several recommendations on some changes, but overall it's a well-thought out system," said John Penney, Advanced Maneuvers Program Manager and Standards Captain B-757/767 of United Airlines. "With a few minor adjustments, I think it's something commercial industry and aviation industry should take and grab hold of."
NASA's Runway Incursion Prevention System integrates several advanced technologies into a surface communication, navigation and surveillance system for flight crews and air traffic controllers. It combines a head-down display of an electronic moving map of airport runways and taxiways with a head-up screen that gives the pilot real-time guidance. The system shows and sounds alerts if another plane or vehicle is about to encroach onto the runway. RIPS also uses specially developed computer software, GPS signals and ground technologies developed by the FAA's Runway Incursion Reduction Program.
NASA will demonstrate the incursion prevention system and two other cockpit technologies at DFW October 24 through 26 to news media, FAA officials, and other government and industry representatives.
This research is part of the NASA Aviation Safety Program, which is a partnership with the FAA, the Department of Defense, aircraft manufacturers, airlines and universities. The partnership supports a national goal to reduce the fatal aircraft accident rate by 80 percent in 10 years and by 90 percent in two and a half decades. Researchers at four NASA field installations are working with the FAA and industry to develop advanced, affordable technologies to make flying safer: Langley; Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA; Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA and Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH.
For more information on the NASA Aviation Safety Program please check the Internet at: http://avsp.larc.nasa.gov
Materials provided by NASA's Langley Research Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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