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Oct. 14, 2016 // Palm Beach Expands Airspace, Using STARS ELITE

NATCA members and their collaborative partners at the Federal Aviation Administration reached a new milestone for the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) program at 6 a.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 13.

That’s when Palm Beach (PBI) used its STARS Enhanced Local Integrated Tower Equipment (ELITE) to assume control of the terminal airspace for both Fort Pierce (FPR) and Vero Beach (VRB). Those airports are located north of PBI, along Florida’s central Atlantic coast. Miami Center (ZMA) had previously controlled this airspace.

“This is the first time that STARS ELITE has yielded this benefit to the user,” said National Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement (TAMR) Rep Aaron Rose in describing the transfer of airspace control from a center to a TRACON.

Previously, as an Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) IIE site, Rose added, PBI was unable to expand its airspace due to the system’s limitation. “Now, with the gateway to NextGen open at PBI, the facility is able to expand service beyond what was previously capable,” he said.

The transfer also affects a fifth facility — Jacksonville Center — which had to perform some automation changes as part of this process.

Rose said STARS ELITE provides a new set of tools to controllers, including increased efficiency, a more user-friendly system, and better capacity particularly if the primary system ever fails. For PBI, Rose said STARS ELITE gives them more airspace to the north, which allows for a more efficient operation to the user based on the use of terminal rules in lieu of center rules and direct automation with the towers. With these advances, gone are the days of one-in, one-out and timed approaches into VRB and FPR.

“The users are the ones that are most excited for this changeover, to be working with an approach control in terminal airspace,” PBI FacRep Bill Fiedler said. “The workforce at PBI has worked long and hard on this project for the past two years. To a get a project of this magnitude, from a concept to a working airspace involving five different facilities, in this period of time, is exemplary. Everyone involved at all of the facilities deserve a great deal of recognition.”

“We are looking forward to working with PBI,” said VRB FacRep Stephan Novarro.

Other STARS News This Week
On Oct. 9, Bismarck, N.D. (BIS) successfully transitioned from ARTS to STARS ELITE. BIS FacRep Kent Anderson said, “Our transition to STARS ELITE went well. We are very thankful for all who were involved that made this transition as smooth and painless as possible.” Rose added, “Collaboration between management and NATCA once again moves a facility into the 21st century. Congratulations to Bismarck.”