Logan Joins the Age of the Internet

By Peter J. Howe, Globe Staff | December 18, 2006

It's been 47 years since Logan International Airport joined the jet age.

Now a key part of the airport's operations is finally joining the Internet age, too.

This month, officials at the Massachusetts Port Authority , which runs Logan, started a new system that gives airlines, air-traffic controllers, and airport officials a password-protected website to review runway closings, weather conditions, and a trove of other Logan data. It's updated every 30 seconds.

As recently as this fall, much of that information was being relayed through the equivalent of teletype machines and conference calls -- which isn't unusual. Boston's is one of only a handful of big US airports to install the new "airfield reporting system." The two New York City airports and Dulles International Airport, outside Washington, D.C., are among the few others that are putting the information on websites.

If it lives up to expectations, Logan's new automated airfield reporting system could help reduce flight delays for passengers, particularly during snowstorms that shut down runways and force airlines to cancel and reschedule flights.

With better, timelier data about runway and weather conditions, airlines may have a better chance to use available takeoff slots during snowstorms and to time aircraft de-icing operations to make sure planes are ready to go at available takeoff times. (Because ice buildup on wings can make planes crash, airlines typically have a window of only several minutes after wings are sprayed with de-icing fluid before the plane has to be pulled out of the takeoff queue and treated again.)

Alternatively, airlines can use the system to learn when they should hold Boston-bound flights in other cities to reduce arrival delays and avoid having planes circling over Massachusetts Bay.

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