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Jets to install runway safety equipment

September 25, 2008|Dan Weikel | Times Staff Writer

Three airlines that operate at Los Angeles International Airport will install safety equipment in their cockpits designed to reduce runway near misses, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday.

The FAA will provide $600,000 each to Skywest Airlines, US Airways and Southwest Airlines to help pay for cockpit systems that show pilots their precise locations at airports and provide them with information about the runways they are entering, crossing or departing from.

Research by the FAA and the airline industry shows that the technology would have eliminated 44% of the serious runway incursions nationwide that were caused by pilot error between 2004 and '08.

Incursions occur when pilots fail to stop at hold lines on taxiways that lead to runways. Aircraft that stray too far present a risk of collision with other planes.

FAA officials say the so-called "electronic flight bags," which include a map display and an alerting system, will be particularly useful to pilots at night, during poor weather or when flight crews are not familiar with the layout of an airport.

"This technology is on every pilot's wish list. It's going to be a big boost for runway safety," said Bobby Sturgell, the FAA's acting administrator. "As a former airline pilot myself, I can tell you that putting these systems in the cockpit will raise situational awareness considerably."

The FAA has agreed to help fund the systems in exchange for information from the airlines that will help the agency evaluate the effectiveness of the system. Under the agreement, each airline will install the technology in 20 aircraft by May 15, 2009.

The $600,000 grants are part of a $5-million program by the FAA to help equip cargo and passenger carriers with the new technology, especially at major airports with runway safety issues.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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