Safety and Tech Dept.: Communicating NextGen Initiatives and Technologies
Thursday, February 07, 2013
By Dale Wright, Director of Safety and Technology
As NextGen initiatives and technologies are being deployed at facilities, it's imperative NATCA educates and communicates with local facility representatives (FacReps) and members so that they are informed. There are times when issues at a local level frustrate members; they want to know if it's the union or management that is pushing a product. Sometimes this line does get fuzzy with collaboration, but the bottom line is NATCA is here to protect its membership and this must not be forgotten.
Over the last several months the department visited three smaller facilities that reported they had not been advised of technology issues. The department sought to assure the facilities that changes have been made to address notification and communication to facilities that are not large airline hubs or en route centers.
The first visit was to Orlando Executive Tower (ORL). ORL FacRep Vinnie Connolly had requested the visit because he said controllers were not briefed on fusion and training was not provided. The controllers were not aware of fusion being turned on and several did not have an idea of what it was until one morning blue dots appeared on their display. When they questioned Orlando TRACON (F11), the answer was that fusion was now being used.
Needless to say this is not what the process should be. The department has worked with NATCA’s members working in the Surveillance Broadcast Services (SBS) Offices to improve communications. Now when fusion is “turned on” at a TRACON, all towers in the TRACON’s airspace are contacted by NATCA to make sure the local knows about the use of fusion along with making sure the controllers will be trained.
The last visit was to Daytona Beach Tower (DAB). Fusion was turned on at DAB several months ago. There were Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) reports filed, and DAB FacRep Mark Beaton provided the department with documentation from the membership of false targets and targets being dropped. Every facility has different challenges with fusion. At DAB they only have one low altitude radar (ASR) and two long-range radars. The long-range radars are not close to DAB so they do not provide any coverage below 3,000 feet. This results in only the DAB radar having coverage below 3,000 feet.
The department met with the local, discussed the issues with several members and then briefed on the results of the discussions with NATCA’s technical representatives in the SBS Office. An agreement was reached locally allowing controllers working the low sector to return to single sensor (radar, no fusion). The agency is also looking at conducting an optimization on the DAB radar and also providing the radar feed from F11 to provide better coverage to the west of DAB Airport.
If your local is experiencing issues due to technology not working the way it was advertised, please do not delay in contacting your Safety and Technology Department. The department’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.