It's not that the FAA hasn't been trying; the agency has been working on a new computer system designed to handle the increased traffic. Unfortunately, the system is now 10 years late (and counting) and has not inspired a great deal of confidence in anyone familiar with NTSB safety concerns. One particularly alarming flaw in the new system involves the procedure by which air traffic controllers warn pilots when a plane is on a collision course with, say, a catering truck: By the time both vehicles show up on the system, reaction time has been cut to seconds. Not the ideal situation if you're trying to stop a 150,000-pound 737.
OK, so we're not going to have a state-of-the-art radar system in the near future. What can be done in the meantime to make our runways safer? The NTSB has offered a string of suggestions, many of which are revolutionary in their simplicity: Controllers need to speak slowly and clearly, and pilots should come to a full stop before crossing any runways. Good thing these people went through intensive aviation training otherwise, all of these complicated safety directives might be way over their heads.