USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Surface Safety Portfolio

The U.S. aviation system is the safest in the world, but one close call is one too many. In February 2023 the FAA moved swiftly to address concerns and issued a Safety Call to Action to take a critical look at the U.S. aerospace system’s structure, culture, processes, systems, and integration of safety efforts. 

The FAA and the aviation community are pursuing a goal of zero serious close calls by examining a combination of technical and human factors. An independent safety review team is also examining ways to enhance safety and reliability in the nation’s air traffic system. This same approach was used for U.S. commercial airlines, and it virtually eliminated the risk of fatalities aboard U.S. carriers. Since 2009, U.S. carriers have transported more than the world’s population with no fatal crashes.

Safer on the Surface

In an effort to address specific safety concerns on the airport surface, the FAA has fast tracked 3 initiatives as part of its Surface Safety Portfolio:

Surface Awareness Initiative 

surface awareness initiatives graphicThe Surface Awareness Initiative (SAI) will deliver capabilities to improve controller situational awareness and reduce runway incursions. The challenge with surface awareness is ensuring the controllers have vision of all the activity on that surface. The SAI provides timely and accurate depictions of both aircraft and vehicles on the surface movement areas of an airport in all weather conditions.

Currently there are airports where tower controllers do not have visibility of all areas of the airport surface. By deploying the SAI capability to the tower cab, controllers will have the awareness necessary to proactively address any potential safety concerns.

The FAA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to survey the technology that currently exists in the marketplace. Based on this feedback, the FAA is currently pursuing formal acquisition of solutions by releasing a Screening Information Request (SIR) in December 2023.  The purpose of the SIR is to solicit proposals from industry to identify a list of best solutions and, from that list, select capabilities for deployment based on the operational uniqueness of a given airport location. The SAI team is working to ensure the solutions proposed by industry meet requirements and needs of ATC to improve their surface situational awareness. The team’s objective is to have a solution deployed to select airports beginning June 2024.  

View project details.

Approach Runway Verification 

approach runway verification graphicThere are also opportunities to improve the functionality of existing systems to address the challenge. 

The Approach Runway Verification (ARV) is a function within the FAA’s terminal automation system knows as STARS. When Aircraft are approaching the airport, the controller issues a landing clearance to a specific runway. The pilot may believe they are aligned with the proper runway, but could actually be lined up with an adjacent runway or even a taxiway. The ARV will alert the Air Traffic Controller of an aircraft that is not aligned with the runway surface as instructed.

The STARS software baseline that is now available for national deployment includes the underlying ARV functionality.  Site specific adaptations based on runway configuration and procedures are developed before ARV can be utilized for a given airport.  As of December 2023, ARV is fully adapted and operational at 9 airports (i.e. Air Traffic Control Towers), with more confirmed facilities planned for CY2024.  A waterfall to develop and deploy ARV adaptations for additional airports is underway. The objective is for ARV to be available for all terminal and tower facilities with STARS (or over 400 air traffic control facilities).  

View project details.

Runway Incursion Device 

runway incursion device graphicThe Runway Incursion Device (RID) is a capability used by Air Traffic Control to provide additional situational awareness of occupied and closed runways.

The RID provides an audible and visual alert to controllers when a runway is not available for departing or landing aircraft. This is yet another tool in the toolbox for controllers to use in order to continue to provide the safest surface environment.

In November 2023, the program received Joint Resource Council approval to proceed with implementation. RID devices will be installed at five (5) airports for an operational evaluation by November 2024, with deployments to 74 airports beginning in 2025.

View project details.

Safety is not a static destination; it is the relentless pursuit that requires continuous improvement. These initiatives represent important improvements, but they are just a small part of a much larger and integrated effort and philosophy. The FAA will continue to analyze the data and make thoughtful and holistic recommendations to advance safety in the National Airspace System.

Last updated: Thursday, January 25, 2024