TAMR at PHL: G4 Commissioning at PHL “Huge” for Phase 1
Friday, May 10, 2013

While the Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement (TAMR) program was marking one milestone at Dallas-Fort Worth TRACON in recent days and weeks, a separate and distinct TAMR milestone has taken place. Philadelphia Tower (PHL)  is the first facility to receive and commission the new G4 processors and new main display monitors (MDM) in its Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS).

“The G4 commissioning is huge for TAMR Phase 1 because it represents the first technical refresh deployment of the new processors that will be coming to all existing STARS facilities eventually,” said NATCA National TAMR Representative Mitch Herrick.

Herrick said the collaborative NATCA-FAA team also identified what was deemed a major issue known as “flicker” within the liquid crystal displays. That helped the team identify mitigations needed and led to a permanent fix to eliminate the flicker.

“The MDM and G4 is yet another prime example of NATCA and the FAA working toward the same goal,” Herrick continued. “In this case, the common goal is a single automation platform. This summer, TAMR3 Segment 2 will qualify STARS Elite for use in the National Airspace System and will join in the deployment phase early next year when we deploy to Allentown (Pa.). At that point all three parts of the program will be functioning on all cylinders."

The NATCA Insider asked two of the leaders of this PHL project, Philadelphia TRACON STARS Representative Jimmie White and FAA AJM-2111 MDM Program Manager and NATCA Associate Member Mike Rymond for their perspective on the significance of what has taken place thus far.

Jimmie White

“From a STARS standpoint, this was as big as it gets in my opinion. After we were totally aware of what we were getting, the program took off like a rocket. We literally had around the clock support from TFOS (Terminal Field Operational Support). There were times when I had to wake some guys up when dealing with some issues and they were happy to help out.

“Everyone knew going in there would be challenges. Robert Padilla from TFOS was the lead and did an outstanding job sacrificing a lot of his own personal time knowing we were dealing with a lot of unknowns. This was his first lead job and, like us, he had a can't-fail attitude. Other guys, like O.J. Stroughter from Raytheon who tailored our training package for PHL, were a huge lift in expediting our readiness to move forward. I would call these guys at all hours of the day and night if I needed help and they were there.  

“NATCA's involvement was key in getting the right pieces in place and keeping the coordination alive. Mitch Herrick was huge in this way, and the program is lucky to have him.

“G4/FSL/EFSL is a game changer in aviation. In the event of a system failure, we now have a fully capable operating system. PHL has already benefitted from G4 on a couple of occasions. The training we created prepared our workforce to keep moving aircraft during a system failure, resulting in the delay of only one aircraft. G4/FSL/EFSL also allows for maintenance in the middle of the day. If coordinated properly, a facility can update their system in the middle of the day, whereas before, these things were commonly done on the mid-shift. The best part is, it only gets better and more user friendly as we move forward. We as controllers at PHL are lucky to take the lead at yet another step forward in NextGen equipment. STARS/G4/MDM makes PHL the cutting edge facility.”

Mike Rymond

“As a proud associate member of NATCA, I can assure you without the close collaboration, mutual respect and excellent working relationship between NATCA and the FAA's TAMR Program Office, this G1 to G4 STARS transition would never have been possible. Jim White, PHL Facility Representative Don Chapman, and all the folks at PHL, inclusive of NATCA, PASS and management, have helped to bring the STARS G4 commissioning across the ‘goal-line.’

“I honestly can't say enough about the leadership of Jim White on this effort.  At every turn and twist in the installation, whether the issue was technical or political, Jim was there to work any issue to resolution. Jim provided a consistent balance between management of the installation into PHL and site/local interests, while also protecting the larger interests of the program and its importance to be deployed NAS-wide.

“I wish this effort could serve as a model for all FAA programs because all of our unions and their members are indeed part of the solution and not part of the problem; collaboration and mutual respect is paramount.  

“As I move on to the installation in Miami, I consider the folks at PHL close friends. I feel that, if required, I could reach out to them for help with future system implementations. And if Jim or Don ever needed my help, all they'd have to do is ask. For me, that is how you know you were part of a true team effort; those folks you worked with aren't just co-workers, they are friends you can count on both now and in the future, and equally so, they can count on you for help anytime!”