Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport runway goes virtual

Change is about safety, efficiency, airport officials say

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is going virtual to improve safety and direct aircrafts to and from their gates. 

Airport officials say the change is all about safety and efficiency.

The old way of doing things relied on radios and line-of-sight communication, but new technology and cameras eliminate the blind spots.

The runway operations used to be controlled in a trailer, where employees could only see so many planes at a time.

The airport's virtual ramp control system went online a couple of months ago, and airport officials say it's the first of its kind in the country.

Specially-trained maestros conduct and direct planes to and from the gates and jetways all from one room , except now their blind spots are virtually eliminated and their sight lines are virtually enhanced.

A network of cameras, including infrared ones for when the weather gets bad, gives employees a complete view of the airport.

Thanks to the new ground control system feeding real-time data, the flight boards at FLL are now some of the most accurate in the country.

The new system helps move more than 700 flights and some 80,000 passengers per day at peak times of the year.

"It prevents conflicts on the ramp between aircraft, or aircraft and vehicles, (and) helps us manage the flow of the aircraft in and out of the gates, much more efficiently," said Michael Nonnemacher, acting director of aviation for Broward County Aviation Department. "And by doing that, you also get other efficiencies, like better on-time performance, reduced fuel burn on aircraft -- and that's really what this does."

Other airports are already taking notice and Tampa International and Dallas/Fort Worth International airports have already visited FLL to take a look at the new technology. 

About the Author:

Layron Livingston made the move from Ohio's Miami Valley to Miami, Florida, to join the Local 10 News team.