bridges vol. 19, October 2008 / News from the Network, Austrian Scientists Abroad
By Peter Moertl
The author of the following article, Peter Moertl, is lead human factors engineer at the MITRE Center for Advanced Aviation System Development. He is leading the design and evaluation in aviation research and development with special focus on runway safety. He has over more than 10 years collaborated with various aviation organizations including the Civil Aeromedical Institute and Technical Center of the Federal Aviation Administration, as well NASA Ames and NASA Langley on flight-deck and air traffic controller related human performance and system design. Peter Moertl studied psychology at the Karl Franzens University in Graz, Austria, and received his Ph. D. at the University of Oklahoma.
MITRE is a not-for-profit corporation working in the public interest in partnership with national and international government sponsors with a 6,500-member staff. Its Center for Advanced Aviation System Development is the largest research and development organization for airports and air traffic control systems in the US. MITRE's origins go back half a century to its existence as a laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Its staff addresses issues of critical national and international importance, combining systems engineering and information technology. More information about MITRE can be found at www.mitre.org .
Aircraft at airports operate in proximity to each other and at high speeds during departures and landings. The erroneous presence of aircraft on a runway can lead to disastrous accidents. The worst accident, in terms of human lives lost, happened in March 1977 in Tenerife, when two Boeing 747s collided during take-off. In that accident, 583 people lost their lives. In a more recent accident in 2001 at Milan Linate airport in Italy, an MD 80 collided with a Cessna Citation: 114 people lost their lives. Although such accidents are relatively rare, they continue to occur and their prevention has been recognized as a high public safety priority.
Aftermath of a collision between two aircraft at Milan Linate airport.
Therefore, Civil Aviation Administrations throughout the world have undertaken programs to reduce the occurrence of runway accidents. This article reports on current developments by MITRE CAASD, a non-profit organization supporting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), together with other industry and government organizations, aimed to reduce such occurrences. The FAA is the organization that regulates and operates the national airspace system in the United States.
Runway collisions are the visible tip of a larger iceberg that consists of events called "runway incursions." Runway incursions involve the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle, or person on runways. In the United States alone, between 2004 and 2007 there were 5-6 incursions per million departures and landings - 1353 incidents overall. Runway incursions are generally considered a better safety measurement than accidents, simply because they occur more frequently. Runway incursions also provide information about the errors that lead to accidents. Therefore, by reducing the rate of incursions, the rate of accidents should also decrease. However, the relative rate of runway incursions per total operations in the US has scarcely changed over the last four years, despite the introduction of several safety improvement programs during that time.
bridges vol. 19, October 2008 / News From the Network: Austrian Researchers Abroad
By Katharina Jarmai
Dr. Arnold Leitner
A man standing alone in the desert. Barefoot in a business suit with rolled-up trouser legs, he carries a worn-out briefcase - and a big grin on his face. The timing is just right for Arnold Leitner, CEO and President of SkyFuel: With both oil prices and the public awareness of renewable energy rising to new heights, the time has come to save the planet and make good bucks with his company SkyFuel, a leading technology provider and developer of thermal concentrating solar power (CSP) systems.
The picture's motif was actually adapted from a poster of the 1980's movie, Local Hero. In the film, a representative of an American oil company is sent to Scotland to acquire a small village from its inhabitants to make way for an oil refinery, but he is won over by his affection for the countryside and the village people. Leitner considers it one of his favorite movies, because it depicts the situation we find ourselves in today. "The energy supply question is not about who's good and who's bad. It is just that we have a problem, and we need to fix it."
Given the early hour of the interview - it is only 8 A.M. in Colorado where he is answering my questions over the phone - Leitner, who holds a Ph.D. in superconductor physics from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and an M.B.A. from Columbia University, speaks passionately about his work and his beliefs. He remembers having his mind made up about his future line of work - solar energy - at the age of 15. It was in his high school library that he came across the picture of a train carrying radioactive waste to a storage facility. The low radioactive waste would have to be stored for ‘only' 10,000 years. While Leitner was already interested in environmental protection at the time, it was this picture and its message that triggered a basic conclusion: Access to, and control of, energy would become one of the world's most important issues in the near future. "I recognized that with almost any environmental problem I could think of, the one thing that all of these things needed was energy." Nuclear energy was not going to be the answer to the world's energy demand, he decided, so something else would have to be.