Sunday, August 26, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- August 26

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

” Aug 26, 1975: The commissioning of the computerized radar data processing system (RDP) at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center marked the end of the final phase of the completion of NAS En Route Stage A, FAA's program of automating and computerizing the nation's en route air traffic control system, an effort covering more than a decade (see Feb 13, 1973). Miami was the last of the 20 ARTCCs to receive RDP capability. The RDP system consisted of three key elements: radar digitizers located at long-range radar sites that converted raw radar data and aircraft transponder beacon signals into computer-readable signals transmitted to the centers' computers; computer complexes in each center able to relay this information to the controllers' screens; and new screens that displayed the information to the controllers in alphanumeric characters. ”

RDP really was a revolutionary improvement. In short, it put the electronic “data tags” on a controller’s radar scope (at the Centers) and replaced the little pieces of plastic (i.e. "shrimp boats") controllers used to push around on the radar scopes -- back when radar scopes laid down flat.

I guess the most important point to notice is the length of the program -- over a decade. And when I came to Atlanta ARTCC in early 1982, the computer would “flop” on a monthly basis -- forcing controllers to revert back to strips and and “shrimp boats.”

You can get a little more insight (if you’d like) by looking at a picture album at the FAA’s site.

Don Brown
August 26, 2007

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