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Controller to Testify Today on Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System before House Subcommittee - (3/14/2001)

WASHINGTON – One of the important components of the Federal Aviation Administration’s efforts to modernize the air traffic control system – the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) – will be discussed today at a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.

STARS is a state-of-the-art air traffic control system for terminal area airspace. It will replace computer and radar displays at 173 terminal air traffic control (TRACON) facilities and 362 airport control towers, and 102 Department of Defense sites.

STARS receives radar data and flight plan information on high resolution, 20” by 20” color displays that are capable of simultaneously displaying six distinct levels of weather data. The new equipment also provides instantaneous backup service to controllers. STARS is one of the first projects to benefit from the full and unlimited participation of air traffic controllers – the key users of the technology.

“NATCA and air traffic controllers involved did not attempt to define or incorporate additional functionality through this process,” said NATCA STARS representative John M. Shea, Jr., who will be testifying today on behalf of controllers. “Our desire was to simply replace the current equipment with suitable replacements that do not force controllers to reduce capacity and efficiency of the National Airspace System.”

Significant progress has been made in the STARS program, moving from development to deployment. The initial phase, referred to as the early display configuration (EDC), replaces a controllers’ current radar scope and operates off the existing automation system called Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS). There are currently two EDC operational sites – El Paso, Texas and Syracuse, N.Y. An additional 11 facilities will be upgraded utilizing EDC over the next two years.

Full STARS implementation includes installation of the new radar displays and new technology to replace ARTS. The first full service STARS system is scheduled for initial operation in April 2002. Thereafter, there will be incremental delivery of STARS software. Once national deployment begins, the FAA plans to install approximately 33 systems per year.

As for addressing productivity and capacity enhancement, STARS is an open architecture design with built-in growth capability. This allows for easy and rapid incorporation of new hardware and software-based tools that will improve controller productivity, efficiency and, above all, safety in the terminal area.

“STARS implementation will not solve our nation’s capacity crisis,” Shea said. “While continuing upgrades and new technological advances are necessary to ensure safe and efficient travel in the future, they will not solve the problem of aviation delays.” However, Shea added, “STARS is an essential element to National Airspace System modernization.”


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