For Immediate Release

March 19, 2004
Contact: Joette Storm
Phone: (907) 271-5296


ANCHORAGE — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is testing laser technology designed to give pilots a better view of airport runway markings at night and during bad weather thanks to laser technology by "lighting up" painted surface runway markings.

The new laser-enhanced technology developed by Delaware-based B&W Tek, uses laser light to produce a high-quality controlled bright yellow beam to project a high-visibility line across the taxiway to mark the "hold short" line. Pilots must halt their aircraft before crossing that line and may not cross it until they are cleared by air traffic control.

The lasers will be used primarily to illuminate holding position markers where taxiways intersect runways. The technology works by interlacing yellow laser projections over the painted "hold short position" markings to produce a brighter line at night and in reduced visibility. By improving the visibility of these markers, pilots will have a better chance to see where they need to stop. Improving stop markers is one part of the FAA's broader effort to reduce runway safety incidents.

"Laser technology has been around a long time," said Roger Motzko, FAA Alaska Region runway safety manager. "But now we will be able to use this tool to make runways markings easier to see during poor weather conditions and at night to reduce the potential for incidents on the runway."

The bright projection is created by the laser's ability to organize light into a specific monochromatic color that produces very directional, or coherent, light. All lasers used in the FAA testing fit within the Federal Food and Drug Administration's laser guidelines that specify "eye safe" conditions for laser light emissions. The technology is being tested for airport use in Anchorage by Greatland Laser of Anchorage.

The FAA launched the laser research as part of the continuing national effort to decrease runway incursions. A runway incursion is defined as "any occurrence in the airport runway environment involving an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in a loss of required separation with an aircraft taking off, intending to take off, landing, or intending to land."

Runway incursions have been declining over the past few years, in part because of targeted FAA efforts to improve airport markings. Last year, 324 runway incursions occurred at airports in the United States, compared to 339 in 2002 and 407 in 2001.

The installation of the first laser-enhanced holding position marking is expected in September in Anchorage.

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