An Advertisement for Airport Ground Radar

Accidents/Incidents, United

If you’ve ever questioned why better visibility around the airport is so important, take a look at this video depicting a near-disaster in Providence last year. (Thanks to Vanity Fair Musings via Don Brown at Get the Flick.

If that doesn’t make you crap your pants, I’m not sure what will. There are just so many problems here that could have been avoided with ground-based radar. It’s a foggy night in Providence so you can’t see much outside. The United pilots get lost on landing and incorrectly state their location as being near inactive runway 25R instead of active runway 25L. That’s bad enough to cause problems. Meanwhile, the controller really blows it. Despite the aircraft saying they were near Taxiway Kilo and hearing a plane fly right overhead, the controller doesn’t pick up that they must be nowhere near runway 23R and on 23L instead.

The hero here? Obviously the US Airways pilots. Had they departed as directed by the controller, they very well could have taken the top off that United aircraft . . . or worse. Fortunately they had the good sense to wait the whole thing out until everyone knew where everyone else was. Wow.

Coming from the capital of runway incursions here in LA, I certainly hope we can get some funding together for better coverage of what’s happening on the ground.

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10 comments on “An Advertisement for Airport Ground Radar

  1. This isn’t the first time a US Airways crew has avoided an incursion. There was one in Boston back in 2005 also. Great job on the crew’s behalf!

  2. It has been widely reported that many towers are understaffed and overworked. Even so, the controller bears some of the responsibility. However, it is not fair to put all the blame on the controller. After all, the United crew initially made the wrong turn.

    Clearly, there is a need for ground radar at almost all airports, especially those like PVD which are subject to thick clouds/fog and have intersecting runways.

  3. Yeah, I’m not suggesting it was all the controller’s fault. In fact, it’s very clearly the fault of the United pilots who made the wrong turn.

    I was more alarmed by the controller’s seeming nonchalance about the whole thing. Like there was no possibility anything could be wrong.

  4. That sends a shiver up my spine. It`s amazing how often that sort of thing happens too, the flight control is still a very manual process and prone to human error.

  5. First, the controller is absolutely unbelievable. I love her statement at the end “UA is nowhere near an active runway, but you can hold…” You have to be kidding me. The US Airways pilot saves disaster, hands down. The controller’s pigheadedness almost causes what very likely would’ve been a two-airplane fatal accident. Sure, UA makes the wrong turn, but they clearly state their position three times and the controller refuses to believe it and just assumes UA is wrong. “Crap your pants” is right. I would hope that, instead of having a bone to pick with pilots who probably make communications errors sometimes, controllers give them the benefit of the doubt when they are ordering a takeoff onto a runway which another aircraft (UA, in this case) states they are on, especially when they don’t have visual or ground radar. That is inexcusable. How can you take that chance? Really, really bad.

    So many problems here though…ground radar would be a blessing, understaffed towers, overworked tower guys, you get the feeling though with the number of near-misses that the US has simply gotten lucky in the past few years with such a good stretch of low fatalities.

    The embarrassment of all of it is…cranky maybe you can write an article some day about it, it was written about in the WSJ about a month ago…how China has the safest skies despite breakneck speed in airport development and air travel.

  6. Cranky;

    I wonder where you obtained this. I have had to watch it for the last 3 years,when I was a controller. It was a FAA power-point cumputer based, manditory viewing.

    That being said, I have seen worse.

    I hope that you spent the time watching the hearings on June 11th. Maybe you would like to comment on those.

    I drive, not fly……….31 years in aviation. Retired!

  7. Papa Kilo – I found this through the Get the Flick blog, which is linked up at the top of this post. He was a controller as well.

    I didn’t see the hearings, so please feel free to give your own opinion in the comments here.

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