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"Heathrow radar to scour runways for FOD"
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Heathrow radar to scour runways for danger debris
By Paul Marston
United Kingdom - The Telegraph
An airport safety system designed to prevent the kind of crash suffered by
Concorde four years ago is to be introduced at Heathrow.
The west London hub, which remains the world's busiest for international
flights, plans to install a radar-based detection system to monitor runways
for potentially dangerous debris.
The sequence of events that caused the Air France Concorde crash began when
the aircraft, on its take-off roll, ran over a 16-inch length of metal that
had fallen from another aircraft.
The Paris airport authorities had not spotted the metal, which burst the
supersonic jet's tyre and triggered a catastrophic fire. The accident, in
which 113 people died, led to the premature retirement of all Concordes last
Like all airport operators, BAA has until now relied on vehicle-based crews
making visual checks on Heathrow's runways to try to find debris. The
process often causes flight delays and safety campaigners have questioned
its reliability, particularly in bad weather or at night.
The new system, developed by the UK electronics company QinetiQ, is based on
high-resolution millimetre wave radar and can operate around the clock in
all weathers. It is said to be able to detect very small objects, such as a
suitcase wheel or a metal nut from a distance of 2,000 metres.
BAA will start testing the system today and expects to implement it fully
next year on both Heathrow's runways, which handle 1,300 flights a day. The
technology can also prevent aircraft from entering runways at the wrong
place, an error that caused 118 deaths in a crash at Milan airport in 2001.
It can also improve airport perimeter security and help to detect bird
activity. Flocks of Canada geese are a regular potential aircraft hazard
Ian Taylor, head of airfield operations for BAA, said: "We already have a
number of effective measures in place to ensure that the runways are kept
clear. We believe the QinetiQ system can be a further improvement."
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