New radar system could increase flight safety | SierraSun.com

New radar system could increase flight safety

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

Flying into the Truckee Tahoe Airport could get easier for pilots with a new air traffic control system that the airport is considering, officials said.

The advanced system, Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, would allow planes to fly closer together without detailed instructions from ground control, according to Hardy Bullock, director of Aviation and Community Services for the airport district.

"Essentially it will help us control the flight path to reduce impact of noise and emissions," he said.

Due to the location of the airport at the bottom of Martis Valley the ADSB systems already installed at the Reno and Sacramento airports cannot reach planes landing or taking off in Truckee, because "it skips off the top of the Sierra," said Bullock. This allows for only one plane to occupy the Truckee airspace at one time.

“We want to make our community safer and more responsive to future demand. This will help us do that.”

— Hardy Bullock Director of Aviation and Community Services Truckee Tahoe Airport District

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At 5,000 feet of elevation, the system at outside airports will give planes 100 percent coverage of the area around them, he said.

"We're talking about the final mile to the airport," said Bullock. "Which in aeronautical terms is the most important phase of flight."

If the airport were to implement this technology, it would increase flight safety as well as prevent traffic delays allowing more planes to arrive and depart from the airport, he said.

"What happens is planes stack up," said Bullock, referencing traffic over the Martin Luther King Day holiday. "The ADSB technology will help us use the capacity we have and route these planes for efficient arrival and departure."

The system would also allow for more transparency around where the planes are and help the airport keep them away from higher density areas such as neighborhoods, he said.

"We want to make our community safer and more responsive to future demand," said Bullock. "This will help us do that."

While the system will allow for a more efficient traffic flow into the airport, Bullock said it is unlikely that it will increase traffic.

Between 2013 and 2016 the airport increased its overall operation by 33.5 percent without any installments of new technology. Since then, that number has steadily climbed, he said.

"Demand is not being driven by technological advances in the airport," he said. After talking to other airports Bullock said they don't anticipate a change in their demand, "just better balance during peak periods and their handling of the high peak period traffic in a more sustainable measured and safe way."

If the Truckee Tahoe Airport District board moves forward with the system, it would install two to three antennas on surrounding peak and train users on the system.

"We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us if we choose to take off on this," said Bullock, adding the airport would be able to have the system operational in 18 months following approval.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or hjones@sierrasun.com.