Mason Psychology Students Win FAA Competition for Runway Safety Project

Posted: June 13, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jim Greif

“In a competition that included submissions from engineering programs and an aerospace engineering department, I am very proud of our students’ award-winning proposal,” says psychology professor Raja Parasuraman. “I was very impressed with the students’ hard work and independence on this project.”

A team of Mason psychology students that he led as faculty advisor recently won a $2,500 prize from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a plan to improve runway safety at the nation’s airports.

The students designed a system called “Runway Incursion Monitoring and Direct Alerting System.” Runway incursions – collision hazards that result in a loss of required separation for aircrafts to take off or land – have resulted in some of the most catastrophic aviation accidents in history.

The Mason team consisted of doctoral candidates Carl Smith and Peter Squire and master’s students Jane Barrow, Kevin Durkee and Jennifer Moore.

The group presented its work on June 12 at the American Association of Airport Executives annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Though multiple solutions have been instituted to improve runway safety, recent data from the FAA indicate that runway incursions are on the rise. As air traffic continues to increase, the need for a solution to prevent runway incursions is critical.

The team members’ system utilizes digital wireless transmissions to send an audible alert to pilots and ground operators on the airfield to prevent accidents.

The students also conducted a human factors evaluation to ensure that the technology could be used effectively by pilots and other personnel. The system represents an affordable and flexible approach that could be implemented by small and large airports alike.

The FAA sponsored the Airport Design Competition for Universities to engage college students to create innovative solutions to the issues and needs of airport operators.

The competition provided the students with the opportunity to work with airport operators and industry experts to gather information and assess the efficacy of the proposed solutions.

“The opportunity to work on designing a solution to a real-world problem was an empowering experience,” says team member Carl Smith. “Interacting with industry experts, aviation professionals and academics exposed us not only to a wealth of information, but a different viewpoint on how the application of human factors principles can save lives.”

The FAA Airport Design Competition is managed for the FAA by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. More information on the competition can be found at the FAA web site.

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