Mineta Unveils New Runway-Collision Avoidance System

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Department of Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta visited Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee on Monday to officially unveil the FAA's new runway-safety technology, installed there last fall, which helps controllers spot potential collisions on the ground. The Airport Surface Detection Equipment Model-X (ASDE-X) creates an up-to-the-minute map of all airport operations, and is especially useful when visibility is poor. Mineta said the administration's budget this year will support $3.3 billion for airport improvements, as well as $700 million in Airport Improvement Program funds for investments in new technologies and runways. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) painted Mineta's remarks as evidence of a "widening credibility gap." The administration's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, cuts the FAA's modernization budget by $400 million, or 16 percent, NATCA said in a news release. "How is it possible to expect the country's airports, like General Mitchell International Airport, to handle a threefold increase in traffic, as proposed by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, while at the same time the administration is cutting the FAA's modernization budget by 16 percent?" said NATCA President John Carr, in a news release. "We need to accelerate the modernization process and ensure we have enough qualified air traffic controllers ready to meet the Secretary's goals, not budget cutbacks. We need actions, not contradictions," Carr said. Mineta conceded the budget was being cut but said the FAA could still keep ASDE-X on track by slowing down other projects with lower priorities. This year, ASDE-X will be deployed at Orlando; St. Louis; Charlotte, N.C.; and Providence, R.I., with 12 more installations planned in fiscal year 2005.