Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Check Your Primary

I have no idea why this thought hit me. Yet here it is.

Have any of you Center controllers checked your radar display for primary targets lately? Somebody has had to work an aircraft with a broken transponder. How is the primary radar working these days? Is anyone maintaining it?

I have no idea. I was just thinking, the radar techs must be getting fewer and further between. Did any of the new guys have a chance to learn how to maintain the primary portion of the radar sites before the old guys left? In typical FAA fashion, they started bleeding radar techs because everybody (well not everybody) thought primary radar was going to go the way of the typewriter. And then, of course, 9/11 happened and it dawned on everyone (including the DOD) that we might actually need the capability to track an aircraft that didn’t want to be tracked. (This site will take you to a level of geek that is beyond my comfort zone. You have been warned.)

But while you’re at it, take a look at the primary weather display. You know, the old “hash marks” for moderate rain and “H”s for heavy rain? Has anybody checked on that lately? Is it even still displayable? (Yes, I have been gone a while.) Don’t forget, the weather data from the ARSR is a lot closer to real time than NEXRAD/WARP.

If you’ve never read it, I believe an article I wrote for AVweb is still pertinent. Read it. You can always tell me if it isn’t.

Say Again? #71: Weather Radar

Don Brown
September 28, 2011

1 comment:

Elaine said...

"Some are pluses, some are dots; some are airplanes, some are not." I'm sure you recognize that old saw that I was taught.

If you were working high altitude, you typically had a few minutes notice of somebody (most often a B-52) coming through transponder-less. If your sector contained altitudes below FL180, you were _required_ to display the [digitized] primary radar returns. I imagine that even before you left, Don, the ability to switch to the broadband display was long gone.

The problem was, you had no idea whether or not any given radar return was an airplane, a bird, the edge of a cloud, or anything else.

So, _checking_ primaries wasn't really necessary. They were there by diktat. Not that they ever gave you much information.

Caveat: info current only as late as July 2010.