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Airport Close Calls Cause Federal Action

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(Source: AP)

(Source: AP)

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – The number of close calls at our nation’s airports has climbed so dramatically it has gotten the attention of Congress; and that has prompted the FAA to try some high tech solutions on the ground at one local airport here in South Florida.

CBS4 I-Team reporter Stephen Stock had details of one of those systems being tested at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport.

Federal officials said the number of close calls at our nation’s airport have suddenly taken off in recent years.

According to a report released by Congress’ General Accountability Office, the number of runway incursions rose from 2004 when there were 733, or 11.4 incursions for every one million tower operations, to 966 runway incursions in 2010, or 17.8 for every one million operations.

“These are disturbing things to hear about,” said Mark Rosenker.

A CBS News consultant Rosenker was chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board for four years until 2009. Rosenker now is president of the National Transportation Safety Group LLC, a private consulting group specializing in transportation issues. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Sequa Corporation, a diversified industrial company with operations in the aerospace, metal coatings and automotive industries.

“Aircraft that collide on the runways,” said Rosenker, “Yes, those are issues that need to be examined. And the NTSB and FAA will carefully look at all of those (issues) so that they can one, understand exactly what happened, and two, prevent them from ever happening again.”

One of the newest technologies being tried by the FAA to reduce these runway incursions can now be found buried in the pavement

Called runway status lights, this type of light makes up a system that is currently being installed and tested at 23 airports around the country…including Fort Lauderdale International Airport.

“This airport is getting it because we have such a high volume of traffic,” said Greg Meyer, spokesman for Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. “It’s one more step that the airport and the FAA can work on together to try and prevent future runway incursions.”

FLL Runway Status Lights

New runway status lights at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport.

“It’s very neat. They have these high tech lights that are embedded in the ground,” said Meyer.

“We’re coordinating a bunch of different types of work,” Meyer said. “We’re going to be doing painting of the runway. We’re going to be doing some EMAS repairs. And the FAA will have their contractor in doing the runway status lights…testing the runway status lights.”

Residents living to the southeast and northwest of Fort Lauderdale\Hollywood International Airport can expect a little more airplane noise as commercial airplane traffic will be using this runway as the north runway will remain closed every day in the early morning hours from about midnight Tuesday until 5:30 am through Thursday, October 27, 2011.

According to FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, “Commissioning of the runway status lights is more than one year away. We’re still in the early stages of implementation.”

Bergen said that LAX in Los Angeles and DFW in Dallas/Fort Worth already have the status light system operational.

The F-A-A says this new runways status light system will not be commissioned and made fully operational at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport for another year.

  • Click here to read the FAA’s media release on the runway status lights.
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