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Austin is Now Transitioned to STARS Elite

Thursday, August 21, 2014

By Mitch Herrick, National TAMR Lead

The TAMR program hit another milestone last Friday evening, August 15. At 11:36 p.m. CDT, Austin (AUS) was welcomed into the STARS family.

After months and weeks of installation, training, final “shake down” and preparation, AUS made a flawless transition from ARTS IIE to STARS Elite.

“This was really a model of teamwork and efficiency,” said AUS NATCA TAMR Representative Matt Sheffield. Sheffield has been involved with the STARS installation at AUS for nearly three years and was instrumental in training controllers as well as developing the transition/cut-over plan. “This is a bit surreal because we’ve been working towards this for so long. Many didn’t believe it would ever happen and that it went off so smoothly is a tribute to everyone in the Agency working on the TAMR program.”

As the afternoon of the 15th passed by, the new STARS Terminal Controller Workstations (TCWs) were positioned in wait behind the old radar displays (RADs), and the Tower Display Workstations (TDWs) were hung parallel to the old D-Brites. When the word to start the installation was given at 10 p.m., the old RADs were rolled out, the new TCWs were rolled in, and the new TDWs were powered on in the tower.

Around 11:30 p.m., the new system was certified for use by the Tech Ops personnel and the connection to the center ERAM computer, known as the IFDT (Inter Facility Data Transfer), was switched from the ARTS IIE system to the STARS system. The AUS controllers in the tower then signed on to their new STARS system and began working the late night inbounds. As morning rolled around and all of the new TCWs were in place in the TRACON, the day shift controllers arrived to a totally transformed TRACON now replete with STARS TCWs and new LCD monitors.

This is the smoothest transition to STARS I have ever witnessed. Site adaptation is one of the most pivotal components of a successful transition, and Austin’s was nearly perfect. I attribute that to our Operational Support Facility (OSF) brothers and sisters. The North Texas OSF folks really stepped up to the plate and made the AUS adaptation perfect. NATCA member Penny Hanna really did an unbelievable job with the adaptation. The OSF specialists are a little-known but amazingly important segment of our NATCA membership and they are really showing everyone how important they are to the success of the program.

The TAMR program continues to hit on all cylinders and they are really putting together a nice string of success stories with Dallas last year, Allentown, Pa., this past April, and now Austin. In a couple of weeks, Denver TRACON will transition to STARS and in three weeks, Billings, Mont., will turn on their new STARS system. The TAMR program has also transitioned Philadelphia and Miami to the new G4 platform as well as turned on new STARS systems in Kalamazoo, Houston, and Boise all in the past year.

San Marcos FCT (HYI) Dedicates NEW TDW

In related news from the terminal modernization front in Texas, San Marcos FCT (HYI) held a dedication ceremony last week for its new TDW. It marks the culmination of a successful NATCA effort to modernize this equipment with both legislative and technological efforts, including the work of Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and his staff.

HYI Facility Representative Ed Mears welcomed National TAMR Lead Mitch Herrick, TAMR Program Director Jeff Yarnell, and Austin Facility Representative Greg Blackford at the event.

“This new radar will help keep our airport flying high,” Rep. Doggett said. “We’re here to celebrate safer trips for those flying in and out of Central Texas.”

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