Airport Grounds Safety Technology Since 9-11- Return-On-Investment (ROI) By ***Tony M Jackson
"Securing airport grounds by initiating higher visibility safety solutions and strategies has an immediate positive impact on protecting personnel, avoiding damage to airline/airport assets, and lowing costs."
Flight delays recently at major metropolitan airports presented an opportunity to observe airport ground activity. What is occurring is chilling and downright astonishing “to the point of utter disbelief.” The hidden dangers and gaps in ground safety are unmistakable.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official name for ground incidences are called “incursions.” While many incidences are avoidable, each occurrence could have devastating consequences for airports, airlines, flight crews, passengers, and ground personnel. Incursions continue to be a hot button for Congress, FAA, and NTSB, as well as pilots.
The demand of lowering costs for airport operations has never been higher. Airport Administrators are experiencing financial challenges to fund ground safety programs. FAA regulated safety and security programs have increased airport costs and budget allocations significantly since the tragedy of 9/11. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007 (House Rule 2881) may provide relief to the tune of $15.8 Billion, with $13 Billion available to modernize ATC-Air Traffic Control Systems. Leaving $2.8 Billion for Airport Improvement Programs that includes infrastructure and airport expansion projects. How much funding will be allocated for immediate safety solutions and programs to prevent accidents on the grounds?
Add to funding challenges an increase in airport ground incursions. The expense trade-offs of implementing complex technology systems will cost airports millions of dollars to fully implement, and is causing Airport Administrators many sleepless nights.
On June 2014, an American Airlines flight and a catering truck collided at Miami International Airport causing damage to both the plane and truck, about 200 passengers and 12 flight crew members were aboard a flight to Madrid. “The problem is, ground incursions are commonplace at airports, with over 230 occurrences in the last six months alone, and is a major concern,” said Tony Jackson, an expert on “loss prevention” strategies and tactical airport grounds safety deployments.
A Novel Approach
What about systems such as: Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE), Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (SMGCS), and Airport Surface Detection Equipment Model X (ASDE-X), they are making a difference. There are many other incursion avoidance systems in use or being evaluated. Yet, the overall number of occurrences remains essentially unchanged annually. While these systems are more complex, and functionally designed to primarily prevent runway incursions (plane-on-plane), they do not address all areas of potentially dangerous incidences occurring to aircrafts, vehicles, personnel, objects, or equipment on the grounds that create safety hazards—one system does not fit all.
“Most “visual” ground safety solutions could be initiated at a fraction of the costs, easily deployable, portable, and reduce the time required for bringing a complex system online to detect and avoid potential ground incursions. ASDE, SMGCS, and ASDE-X are years away from national funding, installation, and actual implementation,” says Jackson. While some improvements have been realized with these complex technologies, most fall short of avoidance expectations.
Jackson further explained, “For many smaller airports, the current technology based systems are costs prohibitive, and require massive installations and runway construction projects to implement. Yet, higher visibility alternative solutions would have the same or greater impact on Return-On-Investment (ROI) to improve safety measures that reduce or eliminate deadly ground incursions costs effectively—portability allows flexibility.”
Competing for FAA Airport Improvement Grants and matching funds from State governments, costs airports additional funds to secure, and requires time as well as savvy political maneuvering. Most Grants never seem to cover the entire costs of implementing airport ground safety programs. Jackson says, “Relaying on standardized markings on Air Operations Area (AOA) surfaces is not enough to ensure safety and avoid incursions. Ground surface activities are far more complex in day-to-day operations for airlines, ground support, and maintenance crews to not include portable higher visibility solutions.”
Going Beyond the Status-Quo
According to Jackson, “administrators are left to rob Peter to pay Paul. Many ground safety programs go unfunded, or never make it pass the planning phase. This leads to increased ground incursions and pose a clear danger for operating safely.” Flight delays and cancellations add significantly to gaps in ground safety deficiencies. “As ground activities become more complex and without higher visibility safeguards, the business as usual approach is a tragedy waiting to happen,” says Jackson.
Securing airport grounds by initiating higher visibility safety solutions and strategies has an immediate positive impact on protecting personnel, avoiding damage to airline/airport assets, and lowing costs. The technology is available “now” and costs beneficial for airports to deploy. Airport ground personnel, vendors, and contractors that are professionally equipped with proven safety solutions, tools, and training in Tactical Avoidance Response (TAR) to sustain the highest levels of safety proficiencies, reduce the potential of incursions occurring at such alarming rates annually.
Bottom-Line for Administrators
“Deploying safety solutions in the most cost effective manner without sacrificing lives and airport assets are top priorities before a tragedy occurs. This engages a proactive as opposed to a reactive response to ground incursions,” says Jackson.” Jackson went on to say, “loss prevention programs, higher visibility solutions, and (TAR) strategies that influence ground safety policies are critical to securing airport grounds from incursions.”
Bottom-line, with over 325 reported ground incursions annually, proactively planning to secure ground operations ranks at the top for avoiding or significantly reducing deadly accidents. Prudent loss prevention strategies that include lower cost higher visibility alternatives have an immediate positive impact on ground safety programs. Airport Administrators response to funding challenges by incorporating alternatives to complex systems influence operating in a safe environment cost effectively, while avoiding a disaster waiting to happen.
About the Author:
***Tony M. Jackson "AKA" Techlevel33 Capstone* is an expert on “loss prevention” strategies and tactical safety solutions located in West Palm Beach, Florida USA. He holds a BS Degree in Electronic Engineering Technology and MBA in Technology Management with over 20 years of hands-on advanced proactive and prevention safety technology experience as well as field deployment safety systems. Contact Tony directly at email@example.com or visit www.techlevel33.com for additional information related to Higher Visibility Safety Technologies and Advance Collision Avoidance Systems.
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