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Controller Involvement Aids Success of Two FAA Projects - (3/27/2002)

WASHINGTON - The nation’s air traffic controllers, citing the continuing success they’re enjoying as participants in the ongoing work to modernize the air traffic control system, are very pleased with recent developments with two Federal Aviation Administration projects - Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) and Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS).

CPDLC is part of the FAA's Free Flight Phase II program. It enables controllers to communicate with pilots using text messages instead of radio transmissions to direct routine activities such as transfer of communications to controllers in other sectors of airspace, issuing altimeter settings, and acknowledging pilots' initial calls. The goal is to decrease the number of controller-pilot radio transmissions. A series of ground-to-air tests earlier this month were highly successful. A controller at Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center transmitted over 100 operational data-link messages to a pilot flying an FAA test-bed Convair 580 at 8,000 feet. The response times were one second end-to-end. Trials with CPDLC-equipped American Airlines planes and Miami Center controllers are scheduled for June. CPDLC is scheduled to go operational at Miami Center in September. The second version of the system, which will contain more functionality - including air traffic control clearances - will begin a national rollout in December 2005 and will be deployed at all 20 centers in the United States.

"Several segments of the aviation community have worked collaboratively on the development of CPDLC, including the controllers and pilots, the FAA, airlines, and communications service providers,” said Martin Cole, who heads the National Air Traffic Controllers Association's involvement in the program. “NATCA has served as an integral partner - both domestically and internationally - in the task of developing and fielding this important new communications path, which will provide benefits to both controllers and to all users of the National Airspace System."

Controllers are also pleased with progress in the STARS program, crediting the teaming of government and industry along with labor and management. Last week, NATCA Executive Vice President Ruth Marlin joined FAA Administrator Jane Garvey at Memphis International Airport for a demonstration of the new system, which will replace computers and displays at radar approach control facilities nationwide. Memphis is the largest facility to have STARS installed and operational. Thirteen airports will have it by the end of the year. Marlin said the STARS deployment in Memphis - six weeks early - is truly a milestone in terminal modernization because it marks the movement out of the development stage and into production.

“This system is both brand new and fully integrated into the existing infrastructure - preserving the seamlessness of the U.S. air traffic service that allows us to work 10 times the traffic of our nearest neighbor,” Marlin stated. “This integration also allows us to do it safer and more efficiently than anyone else. NATCA is proud of its involvement in this success and we are committed to working with the FAA to deliver a state-of-the-art aviation infrastructure that meets the demands of all segments of our aviation industry.”


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