December 16, 1997 in Nation/World

Airlines To Install Anti-Crash Devices


The U.S. airline industry has agreed to quickly install advanced new radar systems on 4,300 commercial airliners to help pilots avoid crashing into mountains, senior government and industry officials announced Monday.

Equipping the entire U.S. fleet with the so-called advanced ground detection system is expected to cost about $400 million, but it will add a significant margin of safety for air travelers.

The device goes beyond existing technology by alerting pilots to obstacles several miles ahead as they approach an airport instead of simply reporting the plane’s distance from the ground directly below.

It provides a map-like display of nearby terrain on a computer screen in the cockpit and, using global positioning satellites, pinpoints the aircraft and the terrain it is approaching.

The system sounds a verbal alert about one minute’s flight time or more away from a geographic obstacle. Older alarms sometimes sound a warning just a few seconds from impact.

“Worldwide, the top safety concern is a category of accidents known as Controlled Flight into Terrain,” said Air Transport Association president Carol Hallett. “Basically, this industry jargon means flying a perfectly good airplane into the mountain or the ground. The airlines are moving forward, enhancing safety, because it is the right thing to do.”

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