Massport to Spend $8.5 Million on New Radar

Nov. 19--Massport officials announced yesterday that the agency will spend nearly $8.5 million of its own money so that Logan International Airport gets a more sophisticated ground-radar system sooner to help stem a spate of near-collisions on runways.

"We think it's important enough," said Craig P. Coy, chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced earlier this month that the new system will come to Logan and 13 other major airports by 2011. Logan's existing ground radar did not issue warnings on June 9 when two passenger jets nearly crashed on takeoff, and during at least two other runway incidents in the past year.

The FAA, however, said yesterday that Boston is already "near the top of the list" to receive the ASDE-X ground radar. "We'll work with Massport to make sure that ASDE-X is installed at Logan as soon as possible," said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown.

Brown did not give a detailed timetable. The first airport to receive the new system will be Seattle's in January. Other airports on the initial list, which is expected to grow, include the Midway and O'Hare airports in Chicago, Los Angeles International, LaGuardia and Kennedy in New York, and Ronald Reagan and Dulles airports in Washington.

Coy compared the agency's offer to buy the system to when Massport officials used $146 million of their own money to purchase and install Logan's baggage security system shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The federal government later repaid that money to Massport.

Coy could not say where the Massport funding would come from, especially under a tight budget that is being hurt by rising fuel and electrical costs, bankrupt airlines, and ongoing security costs. He said he expected the FAA to pay the authority back.

Massport and the FAA made the announcements the day after the FAA chief told a congressional subcommittee that the construction of a new runway at Logan is one cause for the runway incidents. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said the construction, which started in April and is scheduled to be complete next year, was distracting pilots and caused some to mistakenly cross into runways being used by other planes.

Yesterday Massport officials downplayed that comment.

"I don't want passengers to have a mistaken view that construction at the airport is a cause for alarm," Coy said in an interview. "We need technology out here, and we need to make sure that the controllers are giving appropriate instructions."