FAA Introduces New Technology To Enhance Airport Surface Safety Nationwide


On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the implementation of a new surface safety tool that warns air traffic controllers when an approaching aircraft is not lined up on its assigned runway.

The FAA outlined plans to deploy Approach Runway Verification (ARV) technology at several airports across the U.S. this year through 2025, with Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) the latest to adopt the solution.

“A safe National Airspace System begins and ends on the airport surface,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker in a press release. “Providing controllers with tools such as Approach Runway Verification will improve their situational awareness of the airport surface, which is paramount to improving safety.”

According to the FAA, ARV is one of three surface situational awareness solutions under the agency’s accelerated surface safety initiative. The other two components include the Runway Incursion Device (RID) and the Surface Awareness Initiative (SAI).

Developing and deploying these technologies is part of the FAA’s solution to mitigate near-miss occurrences in response to last year’s Safety Call to Action.

In addition to implementing new technology, the FAA is taking steps to improve safety through measures including hiring more air traffic controllers, installing upgraded tower simulator systems in facilities nationwide, conducting routine runway safety action team meetings, and investing millions into runway lighting and surface improvements at U.S. airports.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. The biggest improvement in airport safety will come when we realize that not all verbal communication is understood adequately. While the atc folks know their territory like the back of their hand and issue clearances and instructions sometimes in rapid fire manner the ears and noggin on the receiving end sometimes does not comprehend correctly. With low time and E.S.L. pilots added to the mix the issue becomes complex. SLOWING the audio delivery will expedite things significantly as many “say again” calls won’t be necessary. The essence of communication is when two parties understand each other and know that the other party is clear on what is conveyed. We all come from different places on the planet and so we bring our own “twang” to the conversation–sometimes requiring a bit more time to be clear on what was said. In the marine world we have radio assisted collisions as well as radar assisted ones and we need to learn from these to avoid other ones.

  2. You’re on to something here Tom. “Your transmitter transmits faster than my receiver receives”. Words I heard spoken by some hapless pilot to TEB tower perhaps some 20 years ago. From the big airline and corporate hubs to my hometown airport unicom, it’s a forever problem. People seem more intent on getting the required words out of their mouths than on being understood in the interest of efficiency and safety.

  3. As a student pilot ATC communications are one of the difficult skills to master. Some controllers are very hard to understand with their machine gun fire instructions.
    But mostly this seems to be a bandwidth issue of human voice. At many airports on the So Cal area there are many times when we have a hard time getting a chance to talk with so many of us and only one frequency to talk on.
    Even on CTAF at untowered Compton with six of us in the pattern plus a few helis, I’ve found myself gunning out my position to avoid getting stepped on.

    The problem is voice is low bandwidth.

    I wonder when we can step into the 21st century and implement some form of data transmissions in addition to us staring at the ADSB tracks on our PFDs?

      • Absolutely!!
        FAA had this as a possible technology to push CPDLC for taxi instructions but needs to moved forward into a graphical technology. Most airliners are compatible, Towers need to move forward with the technology.

  4. Of all the fancy tech Administrator Whitaker is looking at, the only one that will product immediate and real safety results is the last paragraph of the story above.

    “…the FAA is taking steps to improve safety through measures including hiring more air traffic controllers, installing upgraded tower simulator systems in facilities nationwide, conducting routine runway safety action team meetings, and investing millions into runway lighting and surface improvements at U.S. airports.”

  5. I would like to see the contract tower at my local airport have a radar repeater so my tower controller can maintain better situation awareness and properly sequence arriving aircraft for landing, heck if you are at pattern altitude approaching from the east as you enter his Class D airspace he will not be able to see you until you are about 2 miles away!
    Bells and whistles are fine but baseline all the towers would be helpful too.

  6. But this all costs money; you can bet the FAA and Congress will try to pass it on to the corporations, and the pilots. You want distinct, slow transmissions? Pay more in fees, and watch the Airport Acceptance Rate be reduced.

  7. Nah… I don’t think so. I’m not suggesting SLOMO, just a civilized rate of discourse ensuring lucidity and comprehension. The speed of discourse will naturally increase as the parties recognize the other’s voice habits and adjust accordingly. Remember that this is a party line and everyone on the frequency is listening and trying to build a mental model of the changing situation. The true metric will become apparent in the reduction of runway incursions, stepped on transmissions, say agains and reduced taxi mistakes.
    As for increased technology usage…it will add to costs and may well increase GIGO in some situations if used poorly. We’re humans, humans make mistakes, mistakes can be dealt with if we allow time to recognize these mistakes and correct them. We won’t know how well this will work until we give it a fair chance and then decide what works and what doesn’t.

  8. Does it work on Parallel runways? If there’s one runway it doesn’t matter if you’re lined up or not. As we’ve seen in recent years, not being properly aligned approaching parallel runways can be “problematical”.

    Not knowing the source for this report, I of course won’t comment on the lack of that question. Maybe ( probably) it was just a press release sent out – without any process to ask questions. But I think it’s not only a fair question, but the only real important one. Is this intended for parallel runways – or merely more tech.

  9. ARV provides controllers with visual and audible alerts if an approaching aircraft is lined up to land on the wrong airport surface, or even the wrong airport.

    ARV is currently installed at towers that service:

    Austin (AUS)
    Lincoln Tower (LNK)
    Elton Hensley (FTT)
    Lansing (LAN)
    DuPage (DPA)
    Chicago Executive (PWK)
    Tallahassee (TLH)
    Cedar Rapids (CID)
    Branson West Municipal (FWB)
    Gerald Ford International (GRR)
    Elkhart Municipal (EKM)
    South Bend (SBN)
    M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport (PLK)
    The agency will deploy ARV at other facilities across the nation throughout the rest of the year and into 2025.

  10. Here’s how ARV works:

    When an aircraft is approaching the airport, the controller issues a landing clearance for a specific runway.
    The pilot may believe they are aligned with the correct runway, but they could actually be lined up with an adjacent runway or even a taxiway.
    ARV continuously monitors the aircraft’s alignment and provides an alert to the controller if the aircraft is not correctly aligned with the instructed runway surface.

    • Does the controller have to enter the runway assigned into the data block, or how does the system know which runway is assigned?

  11. If there were a display on board that showed the runway/approach and clearance to a waypoint transitioning to the approach, it is a no brainer safety improvement. If you work out of a busy field that often has controllers both at ATC and tower firing off machine gun exchanges to keep up with traffic situations, you will find yourself in situations where you are, in visual (best case) conditions, #3 or #X for the approach/runway. Geting someone not familiar with the parallels and out of position is going to happen so everyone is on their toes, tension can run high. Add haze or planes painted gray (great idea) only makes the mess more threatening. Follow all your clearances while counting and tracking the other targets in the system, expect a lot of no-joy. Or, just bumble a long and hope for the best? I don’t thinks so.
    ADSB is shooting METAR and other weather to me, open a approach window traffic paint that simultaneously shows the traffic targets with a text based window with the clearance. Or pass it to a navigator display via net bus. There is a reason that the FAA just issued a paperless update for cockpits that we have been flying for 20 years; lethargy and indecision. If we want the best safety and situational awareness, if we think this is import, the FAA has to have modern thinking and progressive strategies, ongoing. You only have to look at the disastrous events at Tokyo Haneda to recognize that the issue of runway incursions and near misses/go arounds at airports in the US, is a standing red flag. Yes, it will cost money. No it does not need to be $1.2 bazillion per airframe if the FAA stops the forever bankrupting habit of long certification protocals. Publish to a spec, let the market meet/exceed the spec, make portable tablets legal. Catch up to 2015, at least.