Time Based Flow Management: Integrated Departure and Arrival Capability 10.1.18

    As demand for the nation’s airspace continues to grow, smarter NextGen technologies are making air travel more efficient and better for the environment. One example is Integrated Departure and Arrival Capability (IDAC), an enhancement of Time Based Flow Management (TBFM), which uses time to more precisely manage the flow of air traffic into and out of our nation’s airports.TBFM and IDAC are orchestrating traffic flows to save time for operators and travelers while reducing fuel burn and aircraft emissions. They share information among air traffic managers, controllers, and flight operators, expanding the cooperative traffic management environment.

    TBFM accommodates new flight paths and enables tighter spacing between arriving aircraft. It can sequence and schedule aircraft, taking into account aircraft types and flight characteristics. TBFM also helps maximize capacity at select airports and terminal radar approach control (TRACON) facilities. TBFM is in place and operating at 20 en route centers, 30 TRACONs, and 37 towers that serve some of the nation’s busiest airspace.

    IDAC streamlines and automates the monitoring and scheduling process for aircraft departures. It identifies departure demands and available slots at a destination airport or in the overhead stream of aircraft, assigns the slots to aircraft, and de-conflicts the occupancy contention for departures that would otherwise enter slots simultaneously. Air traffic control towers using IDAC benefit from increased situational awareness for requests for these slots. The capability provides current and future congestion information in constrained areas as well as automatic notifications of new constraints and the status of approval requests. Furthermore, towers can plan their operations to meet the given departure times.

    IDAC was implemented in fall 2017 in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), the busy, complex airspace from Washington, D.C., to Boston. Airports receiving the capability include:

    • New York LaGuardia
    • New York John F. Kennedy
    • Newark
    • Philadelphia
    • Teterboro
    • Westchester County

    This enormous undertaking by the TBFM program office came with its challenges, specifically program staffing. The program office, however, persevered along with the facilities and representatives of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and Professional Airways Safety Specialists (PASS) unions. It took 18 ‒ 24 months to complete, a relatively short time given the environment’s complexity.

    Before IDAC started operating in the NEC, the FAA implemented it at five en route centers and their 25 associated towers.

    “The successful implementation of IDAC into the Northeast Corridor is indicative of every member of the TBFM team,” said Robert Tyo, TBFM program manager. “Team collaboration through design, development, and implementation continues to deliver cost-effective solutions on time to meet NAS [National Airspace System] needs.”

    These metering systems provide benefits to all members of the aviation community, including the flying public, and are the foundation for the NextGen era of traffic management.

    The TBFM team completed its most recent IDAC implementation at Oakland Center and associated towers in Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, San Jose, and San Francisco in July 2018. Implementation continues in four en route centers and 22 associated towers throughout the NAS.

     Innovation = Blood, Sweat, and Tears for Smart Airports of the Future 10.1.18

      Innovation – it’s a word thrown around a lot lately. As ATCA President and CEO Pete Dumont said in his opening remarks this morning, our future is about more than modernizing our airspace – it’s about reinventing it. (Cue Game of Thrones Season 5 Daenerys Targaryen: “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”) While much of today’s forward-thinking conversations about the National Airspace System’s (NAS) future were still conceptual, today’s session, “Airspace Management in Smart Cities/Airports” sought to apply more real-world applications to our industry’s biggest innovations.

      Panelist Jack Christine, Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), was primed and ready for this conversation. While many avoided discussing funding and revenue, Christine fully embraced it. CLT, the second largest hub for American Airlines, is working to make the airport “smarter” by uncovering inefficiencies. Prior to this panel, I, for one, hadn’t considered how much new entrants will change the very structure of airports. Christine worries that traditional funding streams like parking, which adds up to about 55 percent of the airport’s revenue, will cease to exist as new entrants infiltrate the NAS.

      “We’ll have to adapt the airport model over time. We’re trying to be as open as we can – in order to provide that infrastructure, we’re going to need partners, there’s no doubt about it,” said Christine, who added that CLT already has relationships with companies like Uber and ChargePoint. Christine hopes that one day those relationships might grow into funding partnerships, like with rental car companies of today. Through CLT’s partnership with NASA and the FAA, Christine also reported that CLT is about halfway through its Airspace Technology Demonstration 2 (ATD-2) project, which simulates technology development and demonstration activities geared toward delivery of near-term benefits to air transportation systems.

      And how does Uber Elevate, which eventually expects to operate 200 flights an hour, think autonomous operations and “smart” airports will coexist? Through capitalizing on the disruption industry current faces with UAS traffic management (UTM), says Uber’s Tom Prevot. “We’re creating an airspace around urban air mobility – we’re really trying to create an ecosystem for flying from rooftop to rooftop in urban areas. We want to integrate it with ride sharing and we want to go to a scale that makes it affordable for everybody.”

      Prevot and David Rottblatt of Brazil’s EmbraerX agree that a key factor in achieving this is establishing a two-way communication system that fully utilizes a 5G network.
      Panelist Matthew Metcalfe, Booz Allen Hamilton, who works with small and large UAS in his automation work, sees two key barriers to the vehicles of our future’s “smart” airports: they’re noisy and they will be less expensive to maintain, which will affect our market in the near-term but create new markets in the long run.
      Sometimes you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.

    From the FAA: Weather Technology in the Cockpit 10.2.18

    Trying to outsmart the path of a thunderstorm using only Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) uplink can be a dangerous proposition. The FAA NextGen Weather Technology in the Cockpit (WTIC) team researches human factors implications of mixing pilots and active weather.

    In one scenario, a pilot viewing an archived NEXRAD radar loop thought there was a sizeable gap in the convective activity along his route. However, he soon found out weather doesn’t always move in a purely linear fashion, and the NEXRAD imagery does not predict storm growth or decay. The aircraft flew directly into a hailstorm that caused major damage to the structure.

    WTIC performs research to develop recommendations for standards and guidance documents that address safety-related gaps and hazards to prevent incidents like this and others from happening.

    Gary Pokodner, the WTIC program manager, said most information displayed in a cockpit is real time, so it can be difficult to look at a display and remember that NEXRAD weather information can be as much as 20 minutes old. To resolve this safety-related gap, the WTIC program is performing research to enhance pilot training, improve implementations of cockpit weather technology, develop weather presentations that are more intuitive, and incorporate design enhancements that are compatible with human behavior.

    Human behavior is a specialty of engineering psychologist Ian Johnson, who also is a pilot. Johnson travels to the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center to conduct human factors research studies. “We look at human behavior in terms of capabilities and limitations, and how we apply them to training, development of systems, and intuitive presentation of weather information,” Johnson said.

    WTIC’s mission is multi-faceted. It’s not just how the pilot interprets the information; it’s also how the information is shown to the pilot and what weather information to show during the various phases of flight. “The way the information is presented has a lot to do with the way the pilot perceives and interprets that information and actually makes a decision, which is part of human behavior,” Johnson said.

    The WTIC program is also studying ways of providing visibility and surface wind information to pilots in remote areas. For general aviation, visibility-related accidents are the top cause of fatal weather-related accidents while surface winds are the top cause of non-fatal accidents.

    “Every research project we perform has the objective to identify a weather in the cockpit gap or resolve a previously identified gap,” Pokodner said. “To identify gaps, we look at reported accidents and incidents data, designs of current cockpit weather technology, renderings of weather information, pilot behavior, and decision-making.”

    WTIC also develops appropriate flight scenarios for use in their flight simulators to address these gaps. For each gap attributable to a safety hazard or a previous incident or accident, the WTIC team develops research projects to create recommendations and training to resolve them.

       From the FAA: FAA is Connecting SWIM to the Cloud 10.3.18

      The FAA is sending its System Wide Information Management (SWIM) aeronautical, flight, and weather data to the cloud via the SWIM Cloud Distribution System (SCDS) so more companies and researchers can easily access it at a considerably lower cost to the agency. In addition to lowering the agency cost, SCDS lowers the barrier to entry for consumers by using more typical web encryption technology rather than a dedicated virtual private network to the FAA secure gateway.

      “We believe that making SWIM data available on the cloud will lead to more companies and individuals using the data to create products and services, just as companies like FlightAware have already done,” said Joshua Gustin, supervisory aviation technology system specialist for the FAA’s Communications, Information and Network Programs branch. Gustin envisions a day when individual researchers use freely available FAA data in the cloud to create new applications that can be helpful to the aviation community.

      Natesh Manikoth, the FAA’s chief data officer, agreed. “Innovation in air traffic management will start and end with data in the future,” he said. “A window of opportunity will be opening up with cloud access to FAA data that increases the chances that more applications that will be useful to the aviation community and others will be created.”

      The FAA realizes the critical importance of data as it modernizes the National Airspace System under NextGen. In the past, companies such as FlightAware — a flight-tracking data company with millions of customers — recognized the utility of FAA flight data and put it to use by creating new services. FlightAware leverages data from scores of air traffic control systems around the world, including SWIM data.

      “NextGen is, in many ways, a transformation in terms of the precision, frequency, and reduced latency of information being delivered to people from any area, such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B), that has higher precision and frequency of surveillance data,” Manikoth said.
      SWIM already provides access to the majority of FAA aeronautical, flight, and weather data, but it is mostly used by companies rather than individuals. However, some users the FAA calls “Johnny Gmails” retrieve non-sensitive data for academic research and similar purposes.

      A lengthy process is involved for a company or individual to access SWIM data. Now that SWIM’s user pool has grown and continues to expand, it is becoming difficult and expensive for the FAA to keep up with demand using the specialized links. In addition, companies have an extensive onboarding process to sign up for SWIM data that can be greatly simplified in a self-service cloud environment. Moving SWIM to the cloud with SCDS will provide this self-service platform.

      SWIM contractor Harris Corporation is developing SCDS on an Amazon-provided cloud service. SWIM cloud users will be able to manage their own subscriptions and change the flow of data they receive via an automated self-provisioning function. Flight data will include only publicly accessible, non-sensitive information that is already available but difficult to use outside of SWIM. 

       Whether We're Talking Innovation, Policy, or Integration, It's Really About the Workforce 10.3.18

    This week’s ATCA Annual conference explored three tracks representing the major pillars of reinventing the global airspace: innovation, policy, and integration. However, sitting in Wednesday’s general session, “If You Think Infrastructure is Mundane, You’re Not Paying Attention,” I was surprised when the conversation turned to workforce, or rather, the “new” workforce.”

    That was the last thing I expected in a conversation about infrastructure. And then I realized that this was a dominant conversation point of every session that I attended over the last three days. I dare say it was the dark horse theme of ATCA Annual (I noticed the future buzzword “workforce” being used much more than “NextGen.”)

    I’ll admit, when I attended my first ATCA Annual five years ago, workforce was sort of an ancillary topic. This year’s focus shows how much the conversation has progressed. Because aren’t most advances really about the people behind them? Modernizing the technology driving the National Airspace System (NAS) is a moot point without also updating the ways we train and utilize the people running it.

    “It’s a challenge attracting a younger workforce on an infrastructure that’s old,” said Steve Reynolds of the FAA. “We need that to keep moving – to keep [the younger workforce] in front of new technologies – that’s the key to innovating.”

    While five to 10 years ago, working side by side with Young Aviation Professionals (YAP) was more of a novelty; now, the aging infrastructure, combined with an aging workforce, is on the brink of hitting a crisis level. In Monday’s “Embracing the New Workforce Reality” session, moderator Lisa Sullivan of Harris Corporation opened by polling the audience on their generation. I was surprised to see the audience breakdown was fairly evenly split at 35 percent baby boomer generation (1946 - 1964), 32 percent Gen X (1965 – 1979), and 32 percent millennial. Sullivan pointed to three areas that will drive our new workforce: diversity, recruitment, and retention.

    “We need to find new ways to inspire young people,” said Katie Pribyl, AOPA, in the workforce session. “Industry needs to become more flexible. We need to discover new ways to train.”

    As FAA Air Traffic Organization (ATO) COO Teri Bristol pointed out yesterday, the agency is already working this issue. The Northeast Corridor has long been a top priority for the FAA and the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) and they’ve implemented specialized training at facilities with complex environments like New York terminal radar approach control facility (TRACON), also known as N90. The FAA added TETRA courses to academy training in Oklahoma City that are geared to specific facilities. They’ve automated curriculums and issue every student an iPad for lab training. Thirty-five of this new generation of ATC trainees is already at N90. It’s why the FAA and NATCA were awarded the ATCA Annual Team Award for Outstanding Achievement this week.

    “It’s a different generation coming through the system,” said Bristol, adding that these measures have reduced training time by 23 percent. “We knew we needed to change the training program or it was all for nothing. People are learning differently.”

    “We have a lot of work that needs a workforce,” said Reynolds. “I think we have so much work to do and not enough people. We will [eventually need to] have positions repurposed and moved.”

    So, while ATCA’s intention was to have three separate tracks, an overarching conversation about our industry’s new workforce ended up binding together this week’s ATCA Annual conference.

       NextGen Advisory Committee Targets Northeast Corridor 10.16.17

      The NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) and the FAA are focusing on air traffic management improvements in some of the busiest in the US: The Northeast Corridor (NEC), which spans from Boston to Washington, D.C. Now that the NAC has added the corridor to its list of modernization priorities, the region is an area of focus for the FAA’s air traffic improvement plans.
      The NAC recommended in February 2017 that FAA improvements in the NEC be added to its list of top priorities. That list already included surface operations, multiple runway operations, Data Communications (Data Comm), and Performance Based Navigation (PBN).

      “It is a challenge to make improvements in some of the busiest and most complex airspace in the world. Diverse stakeholders in the Northeast Corridor have varying interests, and we will continue to work with the stakeholders to form consensus,” said Pamela Gomez, an FAA technical advisor who works on stakeholder collaboration.
      Representatives from more than 50 stakeholders met eight times in six months starting in February 2017 to identify the types of benefits to be targeted and how to measure achievements. They also scoped out implementation challenges, focusing on both near- and long-term initiatives.

      The stakeholders included air carriers, airport authorities, air navigation agencies from Europe and Canada, representatives from the US Department of Defense, and a variety of aerospace companies—including those specializing in air traffic control, avionics, and aircraft manufacturing.

      As a result, the NAC work group created a prioritized list of capabilities it believes will be the most beneficial.
      Deconflicting New York airports.

      •  Improving individual airport throughput.
      •  Improving and integrating existing flow management capabilities.
      •  Improving airspace throughput.
      •  Implementing new flow management decision-support tools.
      •  Improving NAS information to achieve common situational awareness.
      •  Creating new noise abatement procedures.

      The FAA and its partners are currently defining joint implementation commitments, including government and industry milestones, as each improvement requires action by both government and stakeholders. The FAA and industry will work closely on change management for any improvements in the Northeast which require buy-in from controllers, pilots, and dispatchers.
      Previous NextGen efforts have achieved significant benefits in en route airspace along the NEC, as well as in some of the busiest terminal airspace in the world.

      Examples include:
      •  Data Comm clearances for 7,500 flights per month at New York area airports.
      •  New automation to account for wake characteristics at eight airports.
      •  New optimized profile descents at Boston.
      •  Metroplex airspace redesign that smooths the flow of traffic from Atlanta and Charlotte into the Northeast.
      •  A new surface visualization tool at New York Center and at three TRACONS: New York, Boston, and Potomac in the Washington, D.C., area.
      •  FAA safety analysis of approaches in lower visibility at major airports:
         ¤  Philadelphia can now accept more flights per hour during some types of low visibility.
         ¤  This change in visibility requirements has been shown to save airlines millions of dollars per year at Boston Logan International Airport.
      The FAA plans to build on these accomplishments in the NEC as it works with the NAC on its heightened interest in improvements in this region.

       Panelists Play Nice in ATCA Annual Opening Session 10.16.17

    At ATCA Annual’s opening general session, ATC: Be All That You Can Be, moderator David Grizzle of Dazzle Partners, LLC covered a lot of ground, such as diversity of NAS users, conflict management, and how NextGen is helping and/or hurting things.

    Even though it’s no secret that NBAA, A4A, and AOPA publicly disagree on how best to modernize air traffic control (ATC), their representatives played nice at this morning’s panel.

    “The way we collaborate on everything is so much better and less combative than it was 10 years ago,” said Melissa Rudinger of AOPA. “RTCA is a good task masker – they’re good at addressing priorities.”

    Steve Brown of NBAA agreed: “We make sure we collaborate, and there’s very little conflict in that. Everyone understands what the bedrock principles are.”

    “The forums where we collaborate are working really well,” added Sharon Pinkerton of A4A. “It’s informed by our long-term experience with the system.”

    But the discussion inevitably turned to answering who should pay for modernizing air traffic control (ATC), a conversation that began with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta’s morning keynote address.

    “New entrants are driving conversation about funding,” said Pinkerton.

    Panelist Margaret Jenny agreed. It’s been one of the most interesting topics on the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), she added, especially considering the wide array of stakeholders and perspectives that the committee brought together.

    “I don’t know that you can separate the two. Governance and funding go hand in glove,” said Rudinger.
    What would you have done differently in the last few years in how we approach NextGen, asked Grizzle?

    “The way NextGen was rolled out and defined and expectations [were] laid out could have been done differently, but it was part of a result of a lack of collaboration,” said Pinkerton, citing the NextGen Advisory Committee’s (NAC) ability to bring government and industry together. “The FAA within its constraints has done a decent job, but it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.”

       CGH Technologies’ Lincoln Schools Attendees on UAS Past Precedence 10.16.17

    We often hear that the rise of drones is revolutionizing the aviation industry but that integrating them in the National Airspace System (NAS) is an impossible task. While that’s true, David Lincoln of CGH Technologies, in today’s “Bullets, Balloons, and Bounds” talk in the Aireon Arena theater on the Exhibit Hall floor, argued that we’ve been here before. In fact, he cited legal precedence to help answer what the future holds for UAS.

    Lincoln’s presentation explored controlling early incursions, such as balloons, into airspace over private property. He went into detail on airspace ownership, sources of power, and airspace policy, how it applies to private property, and the lines between federal and state UAS regulation today.

    Take for example United States v. Causby (1946), when a municipal airport near Greensboro, N.C., was leased to the military. Unfortunately, Thomas Lee Causby owned a chicken farm less than 800 yards from the end of the runway. The results were catastrophic for Causby’s business, as four large motored bombers would frequently pass a treetop level over his property, eventually ruining his chicken farm. Doesn’t this type of situation sound familiar? UAS has only made them more prevalent.

    “It’s the exact same thing happening – it’s just a different subject,” said Lincoln. “We have to find some medium that works so we can safely integrate.”

    It’s also important to not look too much into the past when formulating a path forward for UAS integration and federal versus state regulation.

    “If every state had a say in how United or American handled their flight, we’d have a mess – you could not have an effective UAS program,” said Lincoln. “Many people are thinking of a 2D solution – a fixed line – but we but we need to think of it more three-dimensionally.”

    The question remains: Where do we draw the line?

       FAA Deputy Administrator: It’s All About Priorities 10.17.17

    Funding (or lack thereof) has been a dominant theme at this year’s ATCA Annual. This morning’s Fireside Chat between FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell and ATCA President and CEO Peter F. Dumont was no different. While the fire was fake, the conversation was anything but between the two industry veterans.
    To put it into perspective, the FAA has gone 21 years without a full appropriation. To throw some salt in that wound, the agency has also had 40 continuing resolutions and 28 authorization extensions in the last 10 years.

    “Try to imagine a corporation operating under that scenario,” said Elwell. “The FAA, in my opinion, has done a phenomenal job in dealing with that insanity.”

    “We don’t really have a funding problem – we have $6 billion from the trust fund,” continued Elwell. The toughest part is management of funds and systems, he added.

    Elwell, at a mere four months into the job, laid out his top priorities as deputy administrator: safety and NextGen (in that order). “Everything we do is colored through the prism of how we can do it safer.”

    Of course, the topic of privatization/corporation (or whatever we’re calling it these days) came up. When talking about reform preferences, Elwell prefers “A transition that’s not locked on calendar dates but performance.”
    “What we’d like to do is what NAV CANADA did. This isn’t about changing the physical infrastructure on day one – it’s about governance and funding and how you make changes to the system,” said Elwell. “The provision of ATS [air traffic services] is not that different from pilot services so it could be handled by a private entity.”

      New Features Enhance SWIM’s Depth, Flexibility 10.17.17

    With the System Wide Information Management (SWIM) infrastructure now in place, the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) advanced technology program is able to enhance services and add more data producers and consumers.

    SWIM turns an expanding array of National Airspace System (NAS) air traffic management data into useful information for aviation stakeholders, providing them with data on which to base operational decisions and implement many operational improvements.

    In 2015, SWIM established a common infrastructure and connection points at all 20 en route traffic control centers, which control traffic at cruising altitude. Point-to-point interfaces were replaced with a modern, universally recognized data-exchange format through a single connection. A service-oriented architecture was established in 2016 and connected to FAA NAS programs, such as the system the FAA uses to manage traffic flows, to provide large data sources for consumers.

    SWIM is composed of producers, consumers, and a registry. Producers, mostly FAA NAS programs such as the Traffic Flow Management System, publish data exchanged through the NAS Enterprise Messaging System (NEMS). Registered consumers, e.g., airlines or research institutions, can access more than 100 SWIM products, which are categorized as aeronautical, flight and traffic flow, and weather. The FAA and SWIM consumers interact through a registry where consumers can search services by criteria.

    SWIM also attracts consumers who are interested in accessing the data. Eleven FAA NAS programs and six external organizations produce data sent via the SWIM network. Twelve internal NAS programs and 138 external organizations are registered to access the data, with another 300–400 potential consumers in various stages of becoming SWIM consumers.

    The latest program segment is expected to improve SWIM in several ways.

    NAS Common Reference (NCR) lets users pinpoint the NAS status and constraint information they need for operational awareness. It stitches together volumes of data from various places, filtering the data down to a timeframe and region of interest. NCR will provide benefits for users such as pilots and dispatchers, who will benefit from information specifically tailored to routes of flight they are considering.

    Identity and Access Management capabilities reduce the chance of unauthorized handling of NAS assets and other intrusions while increasing the ability to detect cyber incidents.  These capabilities authenticate and authorize consumers to ensure secure information-sharing with FAA partners.
    Enterprise Service Monitoring provides an operations and maintenance status of NEMS infrastructure and SWIM services to assist the help desk in supporting producers and consumers. This monitoring tool enables consumers to speak with the SWIM help desk at network enterprise management centers in Atlanta and Salt Lake City and receive an immediate response about service disruptions.

    Closing Time: So, What Does the Future Hold? 10.18.17

    You know that moment just before you solve a Rubik’s Cube? One minute the solution seems insurmountable, the next effortless. I’ll admit, I’ve never conquered the famed 3D puzzle, but you get the metaphor. Well, that’s how I view where industry is at with ATC modernization. And if you thought the conversation at this week’s ATCA Annual was more of the same, then you weren’t listening.

    It’s time to stop assuming that one be-all and end-all solution to ATC modernization will suffice. Real progress and innovation won’t happen until we as an industry break free of the confines of Pandora’s box. That theme was reinforced repeatedly at today’s Aireon Arena concluding free education session, “Blue Skies: Modernizing the NAS, Regardless of Privatization.” It sought to answer what’s next after NextGen.

    Moderator Gene Hayman of CACI agreed: “I think the conversation is starting to evolve – it’s becoming more and more focused. There’s more than one solution, and I believe we need to focus on a collective set of solutions through two lenses: what does it look like with and without privatization?”

    Natesh Manikoth of the FAA insisted the agency has been thinking and working towards a post-NextGen NAS. He suggests that NAS Horizons might be a vehicle to get us there. The Interagency Planning Office (IPO)-led project has partnered with NASA and begun defining what is beyond NextGen by brainstorming concepts, technologies, and strategies for 2045 and later.

    Chris Metts of Harris Corporation agreed that NAS Horizons has the potential of becoming that innovative approach, but felt that having that crucial dialogue (that occurs in so many sessions at ATCA Annual) is a major step towards ending our industry’s “temporary stagnation.”

    “It’s not just up to government – industry needs to assume some leadership in it too,” Metts added.

    Michael Dyment of NEXA Capital Partners, LLC agreed: “We really need to find a new way of doing business. A more agile regulator is what [the panel] is suggesting; otherwise, we’ll lose the industry. I think this industry needs to take some leadership, and we’re not seeing that.”

    Dyment and Metts think the answer lies with a greater reliance public-private partnerships (PPP). Both were impressed with the FAA’s Pat McNall’s thoughts in yesterday’s PPP breakout session. “It’s opening that mindset to say there isn’t just one particular model,” said Metts.

    Manikoth believed an increased sharing of data, which many feel is the lynchpin of ATC modernization, is a cultural change (who doesn’t know someone at work who refuses to share responsibilities?). “Deep collaboration will benefit the whole industry. The industry could do a lot more on its own.”

    The panel suggested it’s not early to examine lessons learned from NextGen, even while it’s still being implemented. “It’s the end of a phase, not the end of NextGen,” said panelist Gerald Dillingham of the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), who’s been analyzing ATC modernization for as long as he can remember. “We should take lessons from this NextGen experience.”

    “I’m pleased to report that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Benefits [like time savings] are now being derived for major players’ passengers,” he continued.

    This new way of thinking—for our industry, at least—extends to UAS traffic management (UTM). UAS have been a major driver of innovation for our industry, which over time, will influence and help inform our change of mindset. One could argue that these types of conversations at ATCA Annual confirm it’s already happening.

    “Five years from now at ATCA Annual, half the companies will be promoting their UTM solutions,” predicted Dyment. “There are dozens of concepts of operations floating around for UTM.”

    So, what’s the answer for the future of the NAS? We still aren’t quite sure but I promise we’re getting there.

      STARS Is Headed to a Terminal Facility Near You 10.18.17

    The FAA is in the home stretch of deploying the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) to 156 terminal radar approach control (TRACON) facilities and 400 towers. STARS replaces several legacy flight-tracking platforms and, as the new common platform, upgrades these terminal facilities with foundational air traffic modernization technology.

    The FAA’s Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement (TAMR) team completed STARS deployment at the 11 biggest TRACONs in summer 2016, six months ahead of schedule.  They include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Louisville, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, Northern California, Potomac (Washington, D.C., area), St. Louis, and Southern California.

    The goal is to complete deployment at the smaller facilities by December 2019. The agency has been deploying the latest version of STARS at new facilities and upgrading previous versions since 2012.

    TAMR replaces 1980s-era analog flight-tracking systems at TRACONs and control towers with a fully digital system that supports essential air traffic management modernization technologies, including Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B). With these upgrades, air traffic controllers can work aircraft more safely on their new scopes, which are flat-panel LEDs that use STARS.

    Controllers, technicians, engineers, and software developers work together at facilities to install, test, and orchestrate the overnight transitions from legacy systems to STARS. After a cutover, controllers can start directing aircraft using STARS right away—so it is imperative that the system work correctly. The shared goal of safety first for the NAS keeps everyone on the same page, with unions and FAA management all aiming for the smoothest transition possible.

    STARS has new features that will make the system easier for controllers to use than the legacy systems it is replacing:

    • Weather advisories.
    • Assistance with terrain avoidance and conflict alerts.
    • More precise tracking of aircraft using ADS-B.
    • Improved traffic picture with flat-panel LED displays.
    • Adjustable keyboard backlighting that improves visibility and makes data entry more efficient.
    • A recall capability so that an individual controller’s complex controller workstation settings preferences are now saved for retrieval at the touch of a button.
    • A highlight capability so a controller can assign a color to an aircraft to make it easier to follow.
    • A minimum separation capability that enables a controller to select two aircraft and ensure the required separation will be maintained.
    • A data block feature that automatically lists the number of aircraft in a formation — a function that used to be done manually.
    • An infrastructure that is easier for technicians to maintain because the same system is being installed at all TRACONs

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