Close Calls Lead to New Radar for O'Hare

By next summer, O'Hare Airport will have a new ground radar system in place to improve runway safety, which has been a problem at the airport in recent months, Federal Aviation Administration officials said Wednesday.

The FAA sped up its timetable for installing the new technology at O'Hare by about a year and a half following a string of near-collisions this spring, FAA officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board, members of Congress and others have been after the agency for years to adopt better runway safety technology.

O'Hare had two near-collisions, or runway incursions, over a two-day period in March, followed by a third close call days later. Last month, a passenger jet at O'Hare also came dangerously close to a cargo plane on an intersecting runway.


The new system, known as Airport Surface Detection Equipment-X, is designed to prevent such incidents by immediately notifying pilots and air traffic controllers of potential collisions. The safety system currently in place has greater limitations, especially in poor weather or low visibility, controllers and the FAA say.

ASDE-X costs roughly $8-$12 million and is to be installed at more than a dozen airports, the FAA has said.

Midway won't be one of them "any time in the near future," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said, because Midway's runway layout is less complex, and the airport has had few incursions.

Blakey, in Chicago on Wednesday for a tour of the city's O'Hare expansion project, also announced that the city would be getting a $10.6 million grant to put in beds of crushable concrete at O'Hare to slow or stop planes that overshoot a landing.

The FAA already gave the city a $15 million grant to use the same arrestor-bed technology at Midway by next year, in response to last year's deadly accident involving a Southwest Airlines jet.

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