The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has unveiled new aircraft tracking technology in Colorado that will allow air traffic controllers to follow a plane's movements in mountainous areas outside radar coverage and in inclement weather.
The technology is known as Wide Area Multilateration and was developed with the help of FAA and the Colorado Department of Transportation for use at Montrose Regional Airport in western Colorado. WAM tracks planes through a network of small sensors that have been placed in remote locations.
“This system will allow pilots to fly search and rescue missions in
weather conditions that would have previously kept them grounded,” FAA's Michael Huerta said in a statement. “It also will support
Colorado’s tourism by enabling pilots to land in conditions that
previously caused diversions or flight delays.”
WAM is the latest step in the FAA's NextGen initiative, with the goal of creating a modern air traffic control infrastructure in the United States to improve safety and efficiency. The FAA has introduced the initiative at airports around the country. Improving the flight path of airlines in western Colorado is exactly why CDOT's David Gordon participated in the program.
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiencies,” he said in a statement. “Partnering with the FAA on
applying this new and improved surveillance will translate into more
efficient flight paths, saved time, reduced fuel burn and enhanced
economic benefits to our mountain resort communities and airports.”
In a speech during the National Airports Conference in October, Huerta laid out the case for investment in NextGen programs, saying the FAA has funded nearly $3.4 million in airport improvement projects in 2012. In the past four years, $14 billion has been spent on infrastructure upgrades.
"NextGen is the FAA’s blueprint to transform our air space system. We are
able to leverage new technology to bring real benefits to airports and
all our users, and we’re able to do it today," he said.
"By transforming our airports and airways with NextGen technologies," he added, "we
will safely and efficiently accommodate the expected traffic growth as
we decrease aviation’s impact on the environment." - Jon Ross