In the Know on the AOA

New technologies enhance situational awareness and provide a more comprehensive and intelligent view of the AOA


In the midst of a runway expansion expected to be completed in September of 2014, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) has embarked on an initiative to increase the capacity of its airfield.

Dan Bartholomew, manager of airport planning at FLL, says that due to the new 8,000-foot runway, and a plethora of associated geometry that goes along with it, now was the ‘perfect scenario’ for implementing an airport information management system and electronic airport layout plan (eALP).

A former corporate pilot and aviation consultant, Bartholomew has been with FLL for four years. He relates that the airport’s biggest concern with regard to the airfield operations area (AOA) is probably universal among airports: situational awareness on the airfield, and incursion management.

Remarks Bartholomew, “The other concern is, since the geometry of the airfield over the next two years is going to be changing in significant ways — we need the ability to have continuously updated airfield geometry maps so that individuals riding around on the airfield know where they are at any time.”

Mark Ricketson, enterprise information management (EIM) project director for Woolpert, has a background in city planning, and has been using GIS (geographic information systems) since grad school.

Lately, Ricketson has been working with what FAA has been asking airports to comply with: new GIS standards. Ricketson spent a year as acting GIS manager for the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and has been with Woolpert for four years. Woolpert developed the plan for the GIS at FLL.

Asset Management

Comments Bartholomew, “Right now we are looking at ways to connect some locators on our operations maintenance vehicles and grabbing feed from the ASDE-X feed [ground-based situational awareness radar].”

ASDE-X is a runway-safety tool that enables air traffic controllers to detect potential runway conflicts by providing coverage of movement on runways and taxiways. “So basically having a transponder in each vehicle that connects to the ASDE-X feed for the tower so it knows where everyone is at on the airfield at any particular time,” explains Bartholomew. “It’s an amazing capability.

“We are also implementing something right now that is equivalent to a virtual ramp control or airport information management system that will be able to track what flights are inbound, what gates they are going to and when, and if a gate is currently occupied by another aircraft.

“That also allows us to do last minute changes … for example, we get a lot of diversions due to thunderstorms; this technology allows us to instantly determine what aircraft can fit in what gates.

“So the airport information management system will allow us to make better informed decisions in real-time.”

Situational Awareness

Comments Ricketson, “There have been some cases where we have almost had some accidents because we lack situational awareness, and FAA is testing some technologies utilizing the ASDE-X feed so that vehicles on the airfield have the ability to understand where they are in relation to other vehicles.

Bartholomew says FLL will probably come to a point where every vehicle that will be moving on the airfield, both in the movement and non-movement areas, will have to have a transponder, and that data will come from the ASDE-X feed.

Says Ricketson, “The weaknesses in the system are around the gates, because the airplanes aren’t necessarily transponding in and around the gates — so you know something is there, you just don’t know the type of aircraft it is.

“As far as the data goes, as the eALP data comes more prevalent across the airport industry, it will be used for many things that airports have not even thought of yet.

“The data is very accurate; it’s survey-grade data — it is certainly going to be useful for any of the NextGen GPS navigation-based technologies.”

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