When we at DOT help improve transportation safety--whether on the road, over the rails, or in the skies--we're fulfilling the most important aspect of our mission. And when we partner effectively with State DOTs, we're fulfilling another worthy goal. When we can do both at the same time, that's even better.
And that's exactly what the Federal Aviation Administration achieved yesterday by putting in place new technology to help pilots better handle inclement weather around Montrose Regional Airport in western Colorado.
The new technology--known as Wide Area Multilateration (WAM)--is part of our NextGen program. It improves safety and efficiency by allowing air traffic controllers to track aircraft that are outside radar coverage, even in Colorado's mountainous areas.
The new system was activated as part of the Colorado Surveillance Project, a partnership between the FAA and the Colorado DOT (CDOT) that began providing radar-like service to the mountain communities of Craig, Hayden, Steamboat Springs and Rifle in 2009.
It's an excellent example of state and federal governments working together to improve safety.
In addition to improved safety, the new technology will provide immediate economic benefits. Because it enables pilots to land in conditions that previously caused diversions or flight delays, the new technology will help local businesses that depend on private and commercial aviation.
As CDOT Aeronautics Division Director David Gordon said, “Partnering with the FAA on applying this new and improved surveillance will translate into more efficient flight paths, saved time, reduced fuel burn and enhanced economic benefits to our mountain resort communities and airports.”
Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta noted that the new technology is also a safety benefit to those on the ground in this mountainous area: “This system will allow pilots to fly search and rescue missions in weather conditions that would have previously kept them grounded.”
The FAA's NextGen program is using cutting-edge technology like WAM across the country to create a modern, satellite-based air traffic control system. This technology is transforming the national airspace to make it even safer and more efficient for the traveling public, airports and operators, resulting in benefits to the U.S. economy.
NextGen initiatives are already helping to deliver more on-time flights, reduce fuel burn, and ensure that the U.S. continues to have the safest aviation system in the world. That's a credit to President Obama's transportation vision, our partners around the U.S., and the professionals at the FAA.