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Sammies finalist Emily Banuelos, team manager of the Western Service Area Runway Safety Group at FAA, discusses an automated system to warn ATC of trouble in the skies, and why it’s necessary to prevent some accidents.

Air Traffic Control manages thousands of flights as they make their way throughout the country and beyond, but sometimes things can get a little too close for comfort. Planes can come within dangerous distances of each other, or land on the wrong stretch of pavement. To solve this, the Federal Aviation Administration has developed new tools alert ATC to potentially problematic situations. Emily Banuelos, team manager of the Western Service Area Runway Safety Group at FAA, helped to develop this system. She’s up for a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for her efforts. She told Government Matters that programming machines to correct for human error is important.


“This is a human error, the pilots misidentified the surface they were supposed to be landing on. It is a very difficult human error to correct. Even with all of the instrumentation on the flight deck, all of the crew procedures and training that go into a commercial airline crew, still, they are human, and they make human mistakes,” Banuelos said. “The advantage to this system is that it is an automated system. It is direct to the controller. There are some systems in the avionics that can be installed in the software on the airplane that can alert the pilot directly. This one is direct to the controller so the controller can take action.”

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