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Mar 24, 2007

FAA Calls for GPS-Based Runway Mapping System

The Federal Aviation Administration called for the use of a GPS-based digital mapping system that would display an aircraft’s precise location on the airfield. Speaking at a Washington news conference, FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey, said such a system, "...could change how safely pilots navigate runways, the way GPS changed how we drive our cars."

The FAA has had standards for such navigation devices in place for years. However, those standards anticipated use of the technology both on the ground, and in the air. Certification of such a mapping system for in-flight use involves much more rigorous requirements. Because of the strict in-flight requirements, manufacturers have found the certification process too costly. By agreeing to certify GPS-Navigation devices for use only on the airport surface, the FAA hopes to speed up adoption of the technology and help prevent accidents caused by pilots turning onto the wrong runway.

The laptop-sized device would be added to a pilot’s Electronic Flight Bag. When used in the cockpit, it would display moving maps of the airport's runways and taxiway, much like systems display streets and highways in automobiles. Some newer aircraft already have such a system on-board. Allowing a pilot to carry such a device with him means the system can be used throughout the existing airline fleet without retro-fitting the planes.

On August 27th of last year, 49 people were killed when Comair Flight 5191 attempted to take off from the wrong runway at the airport in Lexington, Kentucky.

See also: Inaccurate Maps One of "Small Gaps" That Led to Crash
Airports' Digital Maps Get Failing Grade

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