Construction of 5,000-Foot Runway Cited in Surge of Logan Airport Runway Errors

Several of Logan's recent near-collisions occurred when pilots crossed onto active runways, despite warnings from air traffic controllers and radio reminders.

Last week the FAA made Logan the first airport in the country to get a temporary software fix so that existing ground radar can follow planes on intersecting runways better. Earlier this month, it put the airport on the list to get a more sophisticated system that works better at night and in bad weather by 2011.

Blakey said the FAA has made progress curbing the number of near-collisions on runways nationwide, which are down more than 40 percent since 2001. In the last year, however, the FAA recorded three of the most severe runway incidents, including the one June 9 at Logan. The airport had no officially reported runway incidents between Oct. 1, 2003, and Sept. 30, 2004. Logan's tally of 16 since then is more than double the total for the previous three-year period and is the largest number of runway incursions at a single airport nationwide. Logan is the nation's 17th busiest airport, averaging 1,250 arrivals and departures daily.

The head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which is negotiating a new contract with the FAA, told the subcommittee the incursions were the fault of outdated ground radar equipment and a staffing shortage that requires that fewer controllers guide more planes.

John S. Carr, the union's president, said the Logan tower should have at least the 38 controllers the FAA has authorized, but it is staffed with 31 controllers and two trainees.

"We believe that an important reason for the incursions at Boston's Logan Airport is the FAA's failure to adequately staff the facility," he said.

Blakey told the subcommittee that the number of near-collisions on the nation's runways is low when compared to the number of aircraft operations, about 5.4 runway incidents for every 1 million operations. "Further reducing the rate is quite challenging, but a challenge we are undertaking, " she said.


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