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Terminal Controllers Shine Bright With STARS

The Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) provides air traffic controllers throughout the United States with a state of the art radar display system, giving controllers the ability to verify spacing, direction, headings, vectors, conflict alerts, and weather advisories, all while increasing stability and cost effectiveness at airports. STARS was the terminal automation system chosen by the Agency to help move the National Airspace System (NAS) into the future.

Prior to STARS, several systems were being used simultaneously, including ARTS 2E, ARTS 3E, ARTS 1E, all of which were aging, and finding spare parts to replace the equipment was becoming more and more difficult. ARTS 1E and 2E were initially deployed in the late 1900s, and versions 1E and 2E did not support color displays or the ability to update the software to meet the requirements of NextGen technology such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), Automated Terminal Proximity Alert (ATPA), and Terminal Sequencing and Spacing (TSAS). To move automation into the 21st century, a change had to be made. With the STARS system in place, there is now one common automation platform. It cuts down on inter-facility training and support needed, ensures continuity throughout the NAS with engineering, and introduces cost-savings to the Agency.



Aaron Rose (Northern California TRACON, NCT) is the Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement (TAMR) Article 114 Rep for NATCA, and has been the lead on the STARS installations throughout the country since July 2016. “The whole intention of TAMR has been to move to one common automation platform,” he said. “In a typical transition from ARTS 2E to STARS, the process begins a year and a half before Initial Operating Capacity (IOC). Site surveys are conducted, dates are established for equipment delivery, install, and training. It is a collaborative effort involving NATCA, PASS, FAA PMO, AJV, ES, and AJT, involving 25 to 50 people, not including the controllers at each facility.”

Most recently, Huntington ATCT (HTS) and Clarksburg (CKB) underwent the ARTS 2E to STARS transition. Shreveport (SHV) and Tucson TRACON (U90) transitioned from legacy STARS to TAMR G4 STARS.

“We have a great group of controllers that were motivated to improve our capabilities,” said HTS FacRep Mickey Wilson. “Throughout the process, they were very understanding and willing to work through the changes without much impact to our operations. Any and all decisions were made together with our local management to ensure the best possible outcome. The collaboration of all led to a successful installation.”

Dawid Spyrka, Huntington Tower (HTS)

(left to right) Nicholas Tramondo and Brian Hendrickson

Huntington TRACON (HTS)

The TAMR team will complete all transitions at ARTS facilities by December 2019 to meet the NextGen ADS-B mandates. Software testing for new software builds are ongoing throughout the year after the installation, to continually improve the deployed product. “If it were not for the NATCA FacReps and the collaboration between the stakeholders listed above, the TAMR program would not be on time and on budget,” said Rose. “The subject matter experts (SMEs) work hand-in-hand with their counterparts to ensure each transition is smooth and the process was continually improved with lessons learned from prior transitions.”

“Considering the complexities and nuances of a transition from an antiquated system to something more up to date with today’s technology, the transition could not have gone better,” concluded Wilson. “We at HTS are happy and proud of this accomplishment.”

Many thanks to each and every controller and SME for their hard work to ensure NATCA is the reason terminal automation is the best it can be.

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