The Federal Aviation Administration is now responding to a congressional inquiry asking why a potentially lifesaving technology has not been installed at airports throughout the nation.
In September, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit showed avian radar in action at Seattle Tacoma International Airport. The equipment, which costs the airport only $60,000 annually to maintain, allows staff to locate and remove birds flying near runways, thereby avoiding costly collisions with planes.
A research report commissioned by the FAA agreed that avian radar can effectively spot and even predict the presence of large birds or flocks of birds near runways – a crucial tool in bird strike mitigation.
Despite these findings, the FAA has yet to mandate the use of avian radar at any commercial airport. It’s a delay that has some members of congress, up in arms.
“It’s frustrating,” Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY) said. “ I understand that avian radar is being used in the state of Washington at one of their airports. I’d like to see it being used here as well.”
In September, Crowley along with Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) raised their concerns in a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
Now, the FAA is finally responding to those concerns. In this letter faxed to Capitol Hill, the FAA stated, that they share the congressmen’s concerns; however, “The FAA does not have the statutory authority to require avian radar as a mandatory safety requirement. Nor do we believe there is enough information available to warrant making it mandatory.” The letter goes on to state, “We continue to actively support research on how avian radar systems can be used to reduce the risks of bird strikes.”
The response was deemed unacceptable by the congressmen pushing for quicker action.
“The fact is with the increasing incident of bird strikes we’ve got to do something more than what we’re doing currently,” Moran told NBC Bay Area.
Moran’s staff concedes that while the FAA may not have the authority to mandate, more can be done if to encourage widespread use of this technology to make our skies safer.