Thursday, May 13, 2010

ERAM -- More Input

I’ve mentioned this site before but it’s been a long time. I went to it again this morning (looking for information) and wound up reading 13 chapters -- again. Not only is it great history, it’s compelling reading.

Let me whet your appetite: Squawk 1200 -- A history of the next mid-air collision

Chapter 3

”Eisenhower began his last two years as President.   Legislation brought forth research funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, particularly in Air Traffic Control.  The FAA inherited a former military base near Atlantic City, a ragtag complex of pale-green barracks and crabgrass lawns.  It was named NAFEC for National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center.

NAFEC needed computer consultants and contracted with my company (TRW).  I needed the down payment for a house and accepted the offer, which included per-diem.  Besides, the assignment involved aviation, didn't it.

"Your assignment," said Henderson, while shaking my hand, "is to get rid of the stacks." “

For those that couldn’t make the connection, NAFEC is the FAA’s Atlantic City-based Tech Center. Atlantic City, NJ. Oklahoma City, OK. Herndon, VA. The FAA always picks a garden spot for its facilities.

Chapter 13

”I stood up, drawn toward the noise.  My view was blocked in the dim light, but I knew the voice.  Whitey Miller cried out again as if he were in pain.  To this day, I can still hear his words.

"Christ!  Don't give me any more planes!"

I stopped, horror-struck at the sight of the man, head in his hands, doubled over, swaying, fingers claw-like.  "No more!" he cried.  "No goddam more!" “

It really doesn’t have anything to do with ERAM. But it does (I think) provide a valuable insight as to the interactions of controllers and techno types (for lack of a better word). I believe these types of interactions are the key to the future of ATC automation.

By the way, for the new controllers out there, if you’ve never seen one of your coworkers melt down on a sector -- just wait. I don’t think it’s as common as it once was, but it’s real. While you’re waiting, you might want to ponder the customization/lack-of-standardization question. Back in my day, we had the “drop-dead” strip marking rule. Your strips better be marked well enough that if you drop dead on the sector, your relief could jump in without a briefing.

Specifically, the strip sitting at the bottom of the bay without a switched mark on it? Your relief would switch him to the next sector. You guys don’t even know who you’re talking to these days. (What? You thought I’d forget about it?)

Don Brown
May 13, 2010


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