The FAA announced this week that it will start purchasing low-cost radar displays for some 15 airport towers handling more than 30,000 operations annually. And other airports will be able to purchase the systems directly.
AOPA has been pushing for such systems since 1998. And in 2000, AOPA lobbied for an amendment to the AIR-21 legislation requiring the FAA to develop a national policy and procedures for installing low-cost radar systems in VFR towers.
"Since then, we've pressured the FAA to make good on the law," said Melissa Bailey, AOPA vice president of air traffic. "Pilots will benefit greatly from these systems because they will improve safety in the VFR air traffic control environment."
(Tower controllers at many reliever and GA airports can only track aircraft visually. The radar displays can improve efficiency and enhance safety by increasing controllers' situational awareness and improving their ability to locate aircraft in the airport traffic area.)
According to the FAA, two low-cost display systems will be available later this year. Called ARTS IE (Automated Radar Terminal Systems IE) and STARS LITE (Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System Local Integrated Tower Equipment), these displays are based on existing air traffic control technology and can be "bought off the shelf."