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New Airfield Ground Operations System Improves Safety at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport

New Airfield Ground Operations System Improves Safety at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport

Press Releases
March 31st, 2003

New System Also Reduces Flight Delays and Cancelled Flights


Contact: San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport
Rosemary Barnes (510) 563-2892
Cyndy Johnson (510) 563-2820 After Hours (510) 563-3360
Advanced Airport Equipment (ALSTOM)
Jack Hart (731) 512-1100

Oakland, CA, March 31, 2003 – Low visibility and fog conditions can make it more challenging for pilots to operate at airports and for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers to guide them. Additionally, decreased visibility may cause flight delays, cancelled flights and lead to traveler frustration.

The U.K.-based ALSTOM - Airports recently installed San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport’s Surface Movement Guidance Control System (SMGCS), improving the ability of controllers to guide aircraft ground operations. Additionally, SMGCS enhances pilots’ ability to operate between the runway and aircraft parking during periods of low visibility, reducing the possibility of runway incursions.

SMGCS allows air traffic controllers to provide guided assistance to aircraft operating on the ground to and from the airport’s 10,000-foot commercial runway and parking areas through a system of runway and taxiway lighting and pavement markings. From their 10-story tower, a state-of-the-art computer monitor allows controllers to more precisely guide aircraft with illuminated pavement directions in conjunction with verbal instructions. Pilots benefit as they can navigate better in low visibility conditions by recognizing and avoiding runways and runway safety areas for which they have not received controller approval to operate.

The FAA requires installation of SMGCS at all U.S. airports that need to maintain commercial aircraft operations when visibility is at or below 1,200 feet. On average, San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport experiences 15 of these low visibility days per year.

With the recent installation of SMGCS, more aircraft can operate when visibility is as low as 600 feet. SMGCS required installation of red, yellow and green in-pavement lights and pink, white and black painted markings at critical taxiway and runway junctions, and will be used in conjunction with preexisting airfield lighting, signage and painted markings.

“Traveler safety and security is our number one priority,” said Steven J. Grossman, director of aviation for the Port of Oakland, which operates the airport. “The new SMGCS installation is just another way to ensure San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport’s already exemplary safety record. In addition, SMGCS will help improve the airport’s on-time arrival and departure record and reduce the possibility of cancelled flights, improving the service we provide to our customers.”

This $3 million system was partially funded by the federally-monitored Airport Improvement Program (AIP), a grant program that provides for capital improvements at airports and is funded through taxes from passenger tickets and aviation fuel. Additional funding came from the $3 passenger facility charge (PFC) levied on the tickets of all departing passengers.

The SMGCS installation at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport is part of a future enhanced program. The FAA plans to install a ground radar system at Oakland that, when complemented with SMGCS, will allow aircraft to operate when visibility is as low as 300 feet.

Oakland is the first airport in the San Francisco Bay Area and one of the first 10 in the U.S. to install full-scale SMGCS. Other installations are in Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

ALSTOM - Airports provided state-of-the-art software and hardware for the project, making Oakland the first U.S. airport to have successful commissioning and acceptance of their SmartControl system. CH2MHill provided engineering consultation and Rosendin Electric performed the electrical installation.

Bucking national trends, passenger traffic at San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport had double-digit growth in 2002, up 11.5 percent over the previous year to 12,723,777 passengers, despite the continuing weak economy and a severe downturn in the aviation industry financial picture. This was the first time in the airport’s 75-year history that it averaged a million passengers a month.

San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport has 200 flights a day on 14 domestic and international carriers to 38 nonstop destinations, including Atlanta, New York, Washington, D.C., the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico and Costa Rica (service begins May 2003). The airport is a revenue division of the

Port of Oakland, an independent department of the city of Oakland. For information on alternative transportation to/from the airport, call 1-888-IFLYOAK (435-9625). Once at the airport, motorists can tune to 1700 AM for current airport traffic, parking and security information. Visit www.oaklandairport.com for additional information.

VISUAL OPPORTUNITY: Through prior arrangement with FAA officials, media may observe the SMGCS lighting system from the eighth floor public Tower Lounge located in Terminal One. Due to increased security measures, media will not be permitted access to the FAA control tower. Media may find it more effective to observe the new airfield lighting system between sunset and sunrise. Please contact airport media relations staff to coordinate.