Tom Smith
Web Editor

ORLANDO - The Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) has charged its successful Operational Evolution Partnership (OEP) unit with crafting a bridge to the Next Generation of air traffic control systems.

Next Generation should be operational by 2025. It takes the FAA approximately eight years to implement new technology.

In a panel presentation by the FAA at the NBAA annual meeting on Thursday, the agency said it is now "highly accountable and credible" and can be counted upon to develop the next level of air traffic control technology.

The OEP, an inter-agency team, has been working on increasing airport and air space capacity at the nation's top 35 airports. It has been charged with increasing capacity by 30 percent by 2013. It has already achieved a 23 percent growth by developing 12 new runways since 1999, said Loretta Martin, the senior operational advisor for OEP. The OEP is now involved in an extensive outreach effort to get other agencies, industry participants and the public involved. Research is also underway to extend the technology to general aviation airports. "It has become apparent that an effort to modernize the current system is too expensive," said Karl Grundman, director of partnerships. "We need to change the system."

The industry is now starting to implement ADS-B and SWIM. The UPS is already using ADS-B to provide its pilots with situational awareness in airport approaches.

The FAA will be rolling out ADS-B for regular use next year.

The FAA has reached a point with several initiatives that are perhaps ready to go from "Jules Vern science fiction" to a mature technology. "Once a decision is made as to what mature technology to peruse," Grundman said, "We can implement it in a short time."

Current technical developments now under study:

  • Cockpit Display of Traffic Information Assisted Visual Separation (CAVS) - Provides the pilot with better situational awareness in poor visibility conditions. It uses ADS-B technology.
  • Corridor Integrated Weather System (CIWS) - A prototype system that provides traffic flow managers with comprehensive connective weather data designed to make short-term weather decision-making.
  • Surface Traffic Management System (STMS) - Again building upon ADS-B, the system provides surface locations to ensure safe movement during foggy conditions. UPS is using this program at its Louisville base.
  • Advanced Continuous Descent Arrival (CDA) - Enables pilots to "glide in", reducing landing time and saving fuel. Uses ADS-B to achieve desired spacing between aircraft.
  • Route Availability Planning Tool (RAPT) - Integrates CIWS convective and echo top forecasts with existing planned departure routes. It allows ATC users to use existing and future gaps in weather. Funding for RAPT begins in 2007.
  • System Wide Information Management (SWIM) - Provides infrastructure, standards and procedures needed to conduct network-enabled operations so that precise information is available in the right format and the right time.
  • Traffic Management Advisor-Multi Center (TMA-MC) - A decision support tool that provides enroute controllers and traffic management coordinators with a single, coordinated spacing plan that maximizes traffic arrivals across multiple facilities.
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