Airport disasters being prevented by new FAA technology

anlene
6 Min Read

The skies above America’s airports have been plagued by a terrifying phenomenon – pilots mistakenly landing on taxiways instead of runways. These potentially deadly errors have caused 1,641 “wrong surface events” since 2016, with small planes being responsible for a shocking 83% of these dangerous incidents.

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The skies above America's airports have been plagued by a terrifying phenomenon - pilots mistakenly landing on taxiways instead of runways.

The skies above America’s airports have been plagued by a terrifying phenomenon – pilots mistakenly landing on taxiways instead of runways. (Kurt Knutsson)

But there is a glimmer of hope amidst this chaos – new technology known as ASDE-X Taxiway Arrival Prediction (ATAP) is being rolled out across the nation to prevent these horrifying accidents.

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How a new visual and auditory ATAP alarm sounds in the air traffic control tower

ATAP uses advanced radar and sensor technology to automatically detect when a plane is lining up to land on a taxiway instead of a runway. The software sends an alert to air traffic controllers, who can quickly relay the information to pilots both in the air and on the ground.

ATAP uses advanced radar and sensor technology to automatically detect when a plane is lining up to land on a taxiway instead of a runway.

ATAP uses advanced radar and sensor technology to automatically detect when a plane is lining up to land on a taxiway instead of a runway. (Kurt Knutsson)

New wrong course aircraft alert technology is working

This groundbreaking technology has already prevented 50 wrong-surface taxiway landings at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport alone since its implementation in 2018. But the consequences of failing to implement ATAP could be catastrophic. Accidental taxiway landings have resulted in near-misses between planes, putting countless lives in danger.

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Evidence of an airport disaster waiting to happen

Some extraordinary close calls have occurred at some of the nation's busiest airports including a Boeing 757 landing at Newark Liberty International Airport, a Delta 767 landing in 2009 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and in 2015 an Alaska Airlines 737 landed on a taxiway at Seattle-Tacoma.

Some extraordinary close calls have occurred at some of the nation’s busiest airports including a Boeing 757 landing at Newark Liberty International Airport, a Delta 767 landing in 2009 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and in 2015 an Alaska Airlines 737 landed on a taxiway at Seattle-Tacoma. (Kurt Knutsson)

Some extraordinary close calls have occurred at some of the nation’s busiest airports including a Boeing 757 landing at Newark Liberty International Airport, a Delta 767 landing in 2009 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and in 2015 an Alaska Airlines 737 landed on a taxiway at Seattle-Tacoma.

The most disturbing close call came in 2017 when an Air Canada Airbus 320 almost touched down off course on the taxiway at San Francisco International Airport where four aircraft were lined up for takeoff.

Even experienced pilots can confuse taxiways for runways, and with the rise in air travel, the risk of these deadly mistakes only continues to grow.

In 2023, already 8 alarms have sounded alerting to a potential airline disaster

With eight ATAP alerts already issued this year, the importance of this technology cannot be overstated.

With eight ATAP alerts already issued this year, the importance of this technology cannot be overstated. (Kurt Knutsson)

With eight ATAP alerts already issued this year, the importance of this technology cannot be overstated. The accelerated rollout of ATAP, despite pandemic-related interruptions, demonstrates the urgency with which airports across the country are adopting this life-saving software.

“Go Around! Go Around!” command heard over the radio to an aircraft on course to miss the runway

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Once the ATAP alert goes off in the air traffic control tower, it’s up to the controller to leap into action telling the approaching aircraft to abort their dangerous landing. In a world where even the likes of Harrison Ford have narrowly avoided tragedies due to accidental taxiway landings, the implementation of ATAP is a vital step towards ensuring the safety of all those who take to the skies.

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