FAA’s new WAM technology goes live in Western Colorado

3 December 2012 (Last Updated December 3rd, 2012 18:30)

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) have operationalised a new wide area multilateration (WAM) system around Montrose Regional Airport in western Colorado to enhance air safety.

FAA NExtGen Colorado

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) have operationalised a new wide area multilateration (WAM) system around Montrose Regional Airport in western Colorado to enhance air safety.

The new WAM system will allow air traffic controllers to locate aircraft in mountainous regions to ensure efficient flight paths that will also help pilots navigate in bad weather.

Deployed as part of Colorado Surveillance Project, the system will provide coverage in the areas that are not covered by radar, and began providing radar-like coverage to the mountainous regions of Craig, Hayden, Steamboat Springs and Rifle.

Under the project, WAM coverage is planned to be expanded further by deploying the system around Durango, Gunnison and Telluride in summer 2013.

US transportation secretary Ray LaHood said that the joint project by the state and federal government will not only improve safety and efficiency, but also provide immediate economic benefits.

"The new technology will help local businesses that depend on private and commercial aviation," LaHood said.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta said that the new WAM system will allow pilots to fly search and rescue missions in weather conditions that would have previously kept them grounded.

"It also will support Colorado's tourism by enabling pilots to land in conditions that previously caused diversions or flight delays," Huerta said.

The WAM technology will track the aircraft through sensors deployed in remote areas, while the transponders installed on the aircraft will receive and send back signals to the sensors, facilitating precise tracking of the aircraft.

"The new WAM system will allow air traffic controllers to locate aircraft in mountainous regions."

CDOT Aeronautics Division director David Gordon said that the agency is planning to deploy more projects aimed at improving efficiencies.

"Partnering with the FAA on applying this new and improved surveillance will translate into more efficient flight paths, saved time, reduced fuel burn and enhanced economic benefits to our mountain resort communities and airports," Gordon said.

The project involved development of sensor site and the system's equipment, power and telecommunications, which was funded by the CDOT's Division of Aeronautics, while FAA is responsible for maintenance and operation of the system.

NextGen initiatives are in progress in major regions across the country, which will ensure on-time flights while reducing fuel burn.


Image: The new WAM technology will assist in tracking aircraft in remote regions. Photo: courtesy of the US Department of Transportation.