New System Displays Both Static and Dynamic Information for Terminal Controller Use
Thursday, August 16, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the next in a series spotlighting each of the safety and technology programs in which NATCA is participating collaboratively with the FAA. To review each of the programs previously spotlighted, please click HERE.

PROGRAM NAME: NAS (National Airspace System) Information Display System.




ABOUT NIDS: NIDS is an information display system that replaces the IDS4.

HOW NIDS WORKS: NIDS displays both static and dynamic information for terminal controller use. Various weather systems, such as ASOS, AWOS/AWSS, DASI, WARP, SAWS, WME, FDIO, RBDT and RVR have connections to NIDS (interfaces). These pieces of data can be displayed to the controller along with approach plates, airport information, charts, maps, etc.

There are currently about 150 systems to be installed around the country. Each system will have a Database Administrator (DBA) who will be in charge of building the system database for that facility (like is done with IDS4 and ACE-IDS). The DBA will receive training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

FACILITIES USING NIDS: Even though the contract called for an Information Display System that would be quickly ready for use, NIDS is currently still in development. Nashville Tower/TRACON (BNA) is the first Key Site. Salt Lake City Tower/TRACON (SLC/S56) is the second Key Site. Currently, Houston TRACON (I90) is scheduled to be the first facility to receive NIDS once it is rolled out. However this program has had a very difficult time staying on schedule and the implementation timeframe has changed many times.

“This program was a year late in awarding a contract to a small vendor. Even though the contract was awarded behind schedule, the Flight Plan Goals for the program were not shifted. This put the program on bad footing from the start. In an effort to speed development, the Program Office (PO) abandoned the normal AMS sequential development process (Acquisition Management System – the standard FAA management process used to field equipment). Both the vendor and the PO did not have adequate resources to make an expedited process successful and I believe this approach delayed the program even further. The program is now two years behind schedule and not yet through Developmental Testing (DT).”

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: The first phase of DT has been completed. Changes have been made to the Minimum System Requirements (MSR) to improve the software and hardware. These changes and the fixes addressing the remaining Problem Trouble Reports (PTRs) from DT will be incorporated into a full regression test of the software. However, this activity may take six months to accomplish.

ADDITIONAL ANALYSIS FROM RICH: Because of the schedule slippages, this program has been threatened with termination on a number of occasions in the last year. The PO is scheduled to appear before the Joint Resources Council (JRC), the funding mechanism for FAA programs), in the October/November time frame to justify its continued existence. Upper FAA management has told the PO to hold any activity that is not currently underway until the JRC reaches a “go/no-go” decision. Because of this impending decision, the PO is desperate to show progress at any cost and this attitude may be trumping good solid decision-making that would actually benefit the program.