Sep 22, 2009 5:32 PM by Associated Press

FAA system helps track planes in Colorado mountains

A surveillance system to help air traffic controllers monitor planes in remote areas out of the reach of radar is being deployed in Colorado just in time for ski season.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that the system began initial operations Sept. 12 at four airports heavily trafficked by skiers. They are the Yampa Valley-Hayden, Craig-Moffat, Steamboat Springs and Garfield County Regional-Rifle airports. The region's mountains block radar signals and prevent controllers from separating planes below 11,000 feet. As a result, planes must maintain a distance of more than 34 miles to prevent collisions.

Flights have also been limited by poor weather because pilots can't see well enough to avoid other planes.

With the new system, planes will have to maintain a separation distance of just under six miles. That will permit more frequent takeoffs and landings, reducing delays.

Flights will also be less restricted by bad weather.


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