El Paso International Computerizes Airfield Operations Tracking

Jim Faber
Published in: 

Want to know exactly where a burned out runway light is, how often service vehicles exceed speed limits or exactly where the airport fleet was during an incident a month ago?

The management at El Paso (TX) International Airport wanted that data and more; so it turned to Eagle Integrated Solutions for a system to track airfield inspection and repair as well as vehicle fleet safety and control.

The ElectricalOps Pro System (EOPS) and Asset Tracking & Incursion Management System (ATIMS) Eagle installed at El Paso in 2006 are already making operations easier for the 15 staff members who regularly use them.

"Every inspection, light outage, work order or even vehicle trail is just a few keystrokes or mouse clicks away," says Tony Nevarez, airport operations officer.

With three runways, multiple taxiways and other roads, El Paso has miles and miles of area to inspect. The airport operations staff uses EOPS as its primary tool for Federal Aviation Administration "Part 139" inspections tracking and record keeping. ATIMS is used to track vehicle routes and speeds in critical areas of the airport. It has also been added to shuttle buses and security patrols as needed.

Facts and Figures

Project: Information technology system for runway operations tracking

Owner: El Paso International Airport

System Provider: Eagle Integrated Solutions

Cost: $250,000

The Need: Track airfield inspection/repair and vehicle safety/control

The Challenge: Add and integrate new paperless technology

21st Century Technology

The ElectricalOps Pro converts existing airfield lighting inspection reports into a paperless pictoral report. Examiners use touch-screen computers mounted in service vehicles to record the data instead of generating paper reports. The inspection system creates a record, using a Global Positioning System, of where the inspector is and, using that data, lets the repair team know exactly where a problem is.

The Asset Tracking & Incursion Management System tracks an airport fleet from a single desktop, recording data on vehicle speed and routes. It also offers a warning if a vehicle is about to create an airfield incursion. Tracking vehicle speed data has cut speeding infractions by as much as 90 percent at some of Eagle's 40 airfield customers, says Paul Cudmore, general manager of Team Eagle.

Although roughly 80 percent of the system is the same from location to location, Eagle worked with El Paso to tailor it to the airport's needs, Cudmore says. It also helped install a wireless communication network, a typical procedure for adding such services.

Switching to the touch-screen, computer-based system was actually very easy, says Nevarez.

"It was a very fluid transition from the old manual system to the new technology because the systems were designed around our existing procedures," he says. "Our staff has embraced the new technology very well. Eagle worked with us to resolve any issues we had in the beginning. If we needed a different way to achieve a result, we let Eagle know and they would quickly assist."

Although El Paso's staff adopted the new technology very quickly, Cudmore admits the change can be overwhelming. He encourages airport management to figure out what employees' greatest anxiety is and work with Eagle to find a solution for it.

"We say to eat the elephant one bite at a time," he notes. 

What it Takes

El Paso International bought and installed the hardware into its vehicles, including GPS, laptop computers, antennas and speakers. The airport and Eagle coordinated uploading satellite images, light and sign locations and pictures of all airfield signs into the system.

Although El Paso has spent about $250,000 on the Eagle systems, Cudmore says an airport can install a computer- and GPS-based inspection system for $20,000.

"These systems have helped us have a more efficient way to keep EPIA one of the safest airports around," Nevarez says. "By reducing paperwork and the time we spend in the office, it keeps us on the airfield longer and makes us more readily available.

"An added benefit is the extra tools the programs offers, like GPS measuring equipment and access to important resources - checklist, important phone numbers, FAA regulations and advisory circulars," he continues. "We now have quick access to resources in the vehicles when we need them most."

Cudmore says such airfield operations technology could become standard in coming years.

"It's a tool to augment what they are trying to accomplish," he says. "It takes a lot of the administrative burden and questions out of the equation."


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