June 15, 2016

The FAA is conducting a survey on its Runway Status Lights (RWSL) program to gather data and review the program. Participation is voluntary and responses will be collected anonymously, according to Maria DeRosa, project lead for the RWSL program.

The purpose of the survey is to assess actual program results against baseline expectations to determine whether:

  • Program cost, performance, schedule and benefit targets are being achieved.
  • The FAA got what it asked for, and, if not, why not?
  • The investment is providing the service the customer needs. And if not, what can can be done to improve service?
  • There are systemic problems that need to be fixed.
  • There any lessons learned about the acquisition management process.
  • The business case is still valid.

The findings will be documented in a report about four months after the review is completed. If any corrective action is recommended, an action plan will be developed and implemented.

“NBAA fully supports the FAA’s effort to gather this information to improve the RWSL program in support of airport safety,” said Bob Lamond, the association’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. “The RWSL program represents an important positive step in improving runway safety and avoiding runway incursions.”

The RWSL system has been designed to reduce runway incursions by alerting pilots and ground vehicle operators when it is unsafe to enter a runway or begin a takeoff. It is an automatic advisory backup system, which requires no input from controllers and provides direct, immediate alerts. It uses both primary and secondary surveillance to dynamically turn lights on or off, indicating runway occupancy status directly to pilots or vehicle operators.

Red lights, which are embedded in the pavement of runways and taxiways, illuminate when it is dangerous to enter or cross a runway, or begin a takeoff. The lights indicate runway status only – they do not indicate clearance. Pilots must still receive clearances from air traffic controllers for any operation on runways.

On taxiways, runway entrance lights indicate if a runway is not safe to enter or cross. On runways, takeoff hold lights show pilots who are in position for takeoff that the runway is not safe for departure. The FAA reports that 17 U.S. airports, several among the busiest in the nation, are scheduled to receive RWSLs in 2017.

Take part in the FAA’s Runway Status Light System survey.