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November 12, 2002
By Bryon Okada
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Reprint Courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

D/FW Airport seeks support for taxiway

D/FW Airport Airport - Dallas/ Fort Worth Airport will team with NASA's Ames Research Center to create a $500,000 virtual-reality simulation of the airport's airfield in 2005 to demonstrate the merits of a perimeter taxiway.

Airport planners want to convince airlines and air traffic controllers that a perimeter taxiway, where planes taxi around the main runways, would increase safety and speed up operations.

During the past 10 years, the Federal Aviation Administration has recorded 53 near-collisions, also called runway incursions, at D/FW Airport. In 1997, the airport had nine -- the most incursions in one year during that period.

D/FW Airport has not had an incursion in more than a year, an unprecedented feat for such a large airport, officials said.

By 2005, however, a fifth terminal will be open, and air travel is expected to have fully recovered from the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The perimeter taxiway works great in preliminary designs, airport officials said. But seeing is believing.

“We want to validate what we believe we've shown on paper,”said Kevin Cox, senior executive vice president at D/FW Airport. The idea is to bring all the stakeholders together for a “try it before you buy it”simulation, he said.

The airport wants pilot and air traffic controller unions to endorse the project.

The D/FW Airport Airport Board approved a $335,000 contract with the world's premier virtual-reality tower, NASA's FutureFlight Central at the Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, California. The airport will use part of an $825,000 grant from the FAA to pay for the project.

The overall project budget is $500,000. The center has scheduled the demonstration for February.

“We're looking at running what they anticipate to be future traffic levels,” said Mike Madson, a simulation engineer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “We're combining our control-tower simulator with a cockpit simulator and integrating that together.”

The airfield configured at FutureFlight will match what D/FW Airport's airfield is expected to look like in 2005. Pilots will taxi in a 747 simulator, and controllers will speak to them from a full-scale control-tower simulator.

The ability to replicate the specifics of a complex airport and to allow pilots and controllers to interact separates FutureFlight Central from other test facilities, officials say.

The system accounts for fleet mix, ramp operations, aircraft performance, weather, time of day, cloud coverage and lighting.

A perimeter taxiway is not a new idea at D/FW Airport. It was on the front burner just before the September 11 attacks and was discussed after a near-collision August 16, 2001.

In that incident, a Continental Airlines 737 carrying 55 passengers and five crew members was taxiing across a runway. A Delta Air Lines 737 carrying 125 passengers and five crew members had to take off early to avoid colliding with the Continental jet.

“With the perimeter taxiway, aircraft will not be required to cross other active runways to reach the terminal,” said Ronnie Uhlenhaker, the FAA's manager of the charter program office, which oversees airfield expansions. “This greatly reduces the opportunity of runway incursions on this large airport.

“Secondly, the perimeter taxiway routes will reduce controller-pilot transmissions, which in turn will reduce possibilities of a miscommunication, which in turn reduces the possibility of having an incident at D/FW Airport.”

Bryon Okada, (817) 685-3853

2001 dfw and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
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