Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Saving ERAM -- Historical Notes

Please note the time line.

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

”Oct 1956: CAA leased a computer (IBM type 650) for installation in the Indianapolis ARTCC to assess the value of computers for the preparation of flight progress strips and to familiarize its personnel with this type of equipment. “

(Big, curious 11-year gap)

”Jun 30, 1967: During fiscal year 1967, which ended on this date, FAA installed an IBM 9020 simplex computer system at the Cleveland (Ohio) ARTCC (see Feb 18, 1970). “

”Feb 18, 1970: FAA's first IBM 9020 computer and its associated software program became operational at the Los Angeles ARTCC (see Jun 30, 1967). The new computer system was at the heart of the new semiautomated airway air traffic control system--NAS En Route Stage A. This equipment reduced controller workload by automatically handling incoming flight information messages, performing necessary calculations, and distributing flight data strips, as needed, to controller positions. The agency planned to install similar equipment at all of the centers, and with the new automated nationwide system each center would have the capability to collect and distribute information about each aircraft's course and altitude to all the sector controllers along its flight path. The new computers also had the ability to record and distribute any changes registered in aircraft flight plans en route. (See Dec 30, 1968, and Feb 13, 1973.) “

”Aug 3, 1981: Nearly 12,300 members of the 15,000-member Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) went on strike, beginning at 7 a.m., EST, grounding approximately 35 percent of the nation's 14,200 daily commercial flights. The controllers struck after the failure of eleventh hour negotiations, which began 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug 2, and continued, with one break, past 2 a.m. Monday, Aug 3. Shortly before 11 a.m. on Aug 3, at an impromptu news conference, President Reagan issued the strikers a firm ultimatum: return to work within 48 hours or face permanent dismissal. The government moved swiftly on three fronts -- civil, criminal, and administrative -- to bring the full force of the law to bear on the strikers...“

”Jan 28, 1982: FAA released a National Airspace System Plan (NAS Plan or NASP), a comprehensive 20-year blueprint for modernizing the nation's air traffic control and air navigation system. The 450-page document had been printed the previous month and bore the date Dec 1981. It spelled out specific improvements to be made to facilities and equipment to meet the projected demands of air transportation.

Key elements of the plan included:

* Computers: FAA would first replace the IBM 9020 computers at the air route traffic control centers with more powerful computers that could use the existing programs or "software packages." The agency would then proceed with development of new software as well as new consoles and displays known as "sector suites." (See Aug 30, 1982.)

* Facility consolidation: air route traffic control centers and terminal radar control rooms would be consolidated from approximately 200 into about 60 by the year 2,000 (see Mar 22, 1983). Flight service stations would be consolidated from about 300 into 61 automated facilities. (See Oct 2, 1981.)

* Radars: a new secondary radar system would interrogate aircraft transponders on an individual basis, paving the way for automatic "data link" air-ground communications. This Mode S equipment ("S" for "selective address"), in combination with a new generation of Doppler weather radar, would also permit the replacement of the existing primary en route radar system. Primary radar would be retained in terminal areas, however, and be improved with the addition of a separate weather channel. (See Oct 5, 1984.)

* Weather services: were to be upgraded by such means as direct pilot access to computer weather data via remote terminals or touchtone telephones (see Mar 14, 1984). Automated sensors at airports would generate radio broadcasts on surface conditions, improving safety and allowing lower weather minimums for landing (see Jan 26, 1983).

* The Microwave Landing System (MLS): full production procurement was to be initiated in fiscal 1983, with over 1,250 to be in place before century's end (see Apr 19, 1978 and Jan 12, 1984). FAA expected the new equipment to provide precision guidance over a much broader area than the existing Instrument Landing Systems, thus allowing greater operational flexibility.
Following the publication of this initial NAS Plan, FAA issued updated editions annually (see Feb 8, 1991). “

”Dec 13, 1993: FAA Administrator David Hinson ordered an extensive review of the Advanced Automation System (AAS), a multi-billion dollar program designed to help modernize the nation's air traffic control system. The contractor, IBM, was far behind schedule and had major cost overruns (see Nov 30, 1992). Hinson's recommended review included conferring with IBM to determine the impact the company's plan to sell its unit in charge of the AAS contract to Loral Corp., a sale subsequently concluded.

On Mar 3, 1994, FAA announced initial actions as a result of the review that included a new AAS management team and suspension of the portion of the program designated the Area Control Computer Complex (ACCC). Subsequently, on Jun 3, 1994, FAA announced a major overhaul of the AAS program. The agency terminated ACCC. FAA also cancelled another AAS element, the Terminal Advanced Automation System (TAAS), stating that it would substitute a new procurement for modernization of terminal radar approach control facilities (see Sep 16, 1996). The agency reduced the number of towers planned to receive the Tower Control Computer Complex (TCCC). In addition, the agency planned to review the software for the Initial Sector Suite System (ISSS), a program to provide new workstations for en route controllers. On Sep 30, 1994, FAA announced that it would seek a proposal from Loral that would permit the company to move forward with this work under a new program, the Display System Replacement (DSR), which would replace ISSS. (See Apr 27, 1995.)“

Don Brown
March 31, 2010

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